Funding Cut For Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department

The Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health learned this week that state funding to the public health agency has been cut again this year.

Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said the state allocation to the department is $254,157 this year, down about $10,000 from last year. The decrease is not as severe as that experienced last year, when state funding dropped about $50,000 from the previous year’s allocation of $310,000, he said.

Gamble said state funding for public health has decreased across the state.

“It is much smaller than in other years. It does affect local health.” he said.

Gamble said as a result, the health department is not approving certain out-of-county travel, has adopted a set calendar for food-handler classes and has delayed purchases until funds become available or grants are awarded. In addition, retiring staff members are being replaced by employees who are paid at a lower rate.

Gamble said the department’s biggest funding partners are the city of Wheeling and the Ohio County Commission, whose contributions have not been increased for a couple of years. He said other revenue is generated from fees and permits, but the state sets those rates.

Meanwhile, Terry Sterling of Wheeling was sworn in as a new member of the health board. Ohio County Clerk Michael Kelly administered the oath of office.

The Ohio County Commission appointed Sterling to an unexpired term on the board, replacing Wheeling resident Wilkes Kinney, who resigned because of health issues.

Dr. John Holloway, board chairman, recommended in July that a woman be chosen to fill Kinney’s position. However, county commissioners selected Sterling, keeping the board an all-male group.

Gamble said the health departments of Ohio, Marshall, Brooke and Hancock counties have received a grant to provide free radon test kits to the public. Test kits, offered in partnership with the American Lung Association, are available at the health department’s office in the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

Health Officer Dr. William Mercer said a memorandum of understanding was signed Monday with Catholic Charities to allow the health department’s homeless outreach program, Project HOPE, to establish an offsite examination room at Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center in East Wheeling. He said equipment for the exam room is being purchased with funds donated by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church of Wheeling.

Mercer said Project HOPE has formed partnerships with several organizations to provide services to the homeless population. Street medicine teams go into the community every Tuesday night. Participants include students from Wheeling Jesuit and West Liberty universities and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and representatives of Wheeling Hospital.