The health department has to make sure it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and ensure all local residents can access its services, said Tim Hollinger, the county’s health commissioner. The accrediting agency has stricter standards than the law and won’t “grandfather” old buildings, he said.
Many people in wheelchairs can’t get to the second floor because the building’s old elevator has a small door, he said. Medical records that have been kept on the first floor will be moved to the second floor to create room for the sanitarians in environmental health, who enforce cleanliness rules in local restaurants and other businesses.
Hollinger must also obtain permission from Huron County’s commissioners before beginning construction.
Under the terms of the department’s lease, the department doesn’t pay any rent but has agreed to spend up to $10,000 a year on maintaining the building, Hollinger said. The proposed ADA project would fall within that budget, he said.
Erie County is also seeking national accreditation from the same agency Huron County is working with, the Public Health Accreditation Board, said Pete Schade, Erie County’s health commissioner. So far, only two of Ohio’s county health departments have won accreditation.
“My feeling is accreditation will open the door for grants and other funding options that will not be available for people who are not accredited” Schade said.
Accreditation also sends a positive signal to the community about whether the department is trying to do things right, Schade said.
Schade said Erie County won a $40,000 grant to help with the accreditation process.
“We are awaiting a site visit from the PHAB team” he said.