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April 28, 2015 • Headlines

There have been some pothole repairs done in town and around the county, but this road work by contractor Dave O’Mara was for finishing details due to work on the water main lines in Versailles. This was on Thursday at Adams Street.
Chad Varga, former NBA player, was the guest speaker at the Pinwheels for Prevention child abuse session in Ripley County Thursday.
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Taxes due by May 11

It’s tax time for property owners. The Ripley| County tax bills were mailed on March 30 and are due May 11 for the spring installment. Fall bills are due Nov.10. The spring and fall bills can be paid in the office at the courthouse annex building in Versailles, online, drop box (located at the southwest end of the building) or by mail. The mailing address is Ripley County Treasurer, PO Box 176, Versailles, IN, 47042. Checks can be made out to the Ripley County Treasurer.

The treasurer’s office will have extended hours for the tax season. They will be closed on Tuesday, May 5 for election day, and have extended hours Thursday, May 7, 8 to 6, Friday, May 8, 8 to 6 and Monday, May 11, 8 to 6 p.m. If you have not received your bill or you have questions call the office at 812-689-6352. The assessor’s office also has personal property tax forms due on May 15. If you need a form or have questions call the assessor’s office at 812-689-5656.

Health board planning in case of HIV outbreak here

Mary Mattingly

“I’d like to prevent from being another Scott County,” Dr. Stephen Stein said at the Ripley County Health Department board meeting April 23. The board member was referring to the HIV outbreak there that has caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state to step in to help control the epidemic. Early last week they were up to 130 positive HIV cases, and as of Friday it was at 142 and included cases in Jackson County too. Holley Rose, public health preparedness coordinator, said to the board, “It could hit 200 to 250.” Prior to this, a typical year is just two to five cases.

Rose has spent a lot of time in Scott County the past few weeks. The county health department took the lead on volunteer coordination. The district 9 Medical Reserve Corp unit was activated. They scheduled volunteer positions within the one-stop shop there, where you can get a new birth certificate or get tested for HIV, among other things.

“It’s a significant potential health problem for the entire portion of the state,” Dr. Stein said, and considering our proximity and heroin problem, Ripley County could have a similar problem. HIV (the precursor to AIDS) and Hepatitis C are linked to intravenous drug use. Rose agreed it knows no boundary, and said that all surrounding counties are watching closely to see how to respond should it happen, and also how to prevent it. Federal health officials issued an alert to health departments on Friday urging them to take steps to identify and track HIV and Hepatitis C cases in hopes to prevent similar outbreaks.

“We seem to be gaining trust in the community. The health department did start a mobile needle exchange program,” Rose said, and the CDC is going door to door to test people. Since the governor extended the needle exchange program, they will activate all MRCs in the state, not just the region, she said. Rose said they are looking at how Scott County’s health department can then take over once CDC and the state move out. “How do we start to slowly put this in the community’s hands? How do we help them, to get their community members involved. It’s not just for HIV. It’s a whole community approach,” she said is the approach many are taking. Both the state health commissioner, Dr. Jerome Adams, and Indiana’s US Congressman Luke Messer participated in the district 9 meeting, which Ripley County was a part of.

The majority of those getting the HIV tests also have Hepatitis C. They can be asked to test for HIV, but you can’t require them. Ripley County has already noticed an increase in Hepatitis C cases in the past six months. Dr. Stein commented, “It deserves some thought to look at the future and what we should do without raising alarm but being smart.” With that in mind, Rose suggested it would be proactive of the board to come up with a needle exchange policy for the county. Scott County’s board spent hours hammering out its policy, she said. Whatever your personal opinion is, Rose said research shows that the needle exchange program reduces HIV cases. “We are there after all to stop the spread of the disease,” Rose said. One way to be proactive is to launch a media campaign to increase awareness so the health department can get a better handle on case numbers. “We need to know our numbers, and to let people know that yes we test, and it is confidential. That’s the scary part when you don’t know your numbers,’’ she said.

The national advisory urges departments to review data on HIV, overdose deaths, drug arrests to identify communities at risk for infectious diseases. “After this next 30 day extension, there are a lot of lessons to be learned and policies set. They tell us you are making Indiana history. It’s never been done before,” she said. Dr. Harley Robinson, chair of the board, agreed, “It’s uncharted waters.” Indiana typically sees about 500 new HIV cases a year, but officials say the Scott County outbreak is the tip of the iceberg for a national opiate abuse problem that puts people at risk for infectious diseases.

Getting tested

Testing is available at the health department the second Wednesday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. and appointments are not needed. This month, they had two come for testing, which is more than they’ve had before. If someone wants to be HIV tested at another time, they direct them to Clark or Decatur County health departments.

Health department
Beside assisting with Scott County’s issue, the health department has been busy with other agendas. They introduced the new part time nurse, Amy Watson to the board. She will be working there on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The health department is also handing out drug testing kits, with no questions asked. This was announced April 14 at an anti-drug and prevention seminar in Batesville. Vicky Powell, the county health administrator, attended the meeting.

Powell reported the medical billing system is going well, and they have completed four more contracts with providers. Anthem is the most popular one. She attended an informative e-cigarette session given by a respiratory therapist. She learned there are 467 brands and 8000 flavors, and $7 billion in sales in 2014, almost double from the year before. Dr. Robinson mentioned the industry is not regulated and the e-cigarette bill did not get out of committee at the statehouse. He participated in the Indiana Association of Health boards webinar about it in February.

The health department received an $1,100 grant from the Ripley County Drug Awareness Coalition which will be used for materials for the 8th grade reality check, the health fair and the Great American Smoke-Out. Also, they collaborated with Family Connections to submit the tobacco prevention and cessation $10,000 grants.

Dr. Robinson is Indiana’s representative on the National Association of Health Boards. The conference will be in Louisville in August. The organization has a webinar monthly on health issues and it is free to the county health board members.

The health department also completed a grant funding opportunity in regard to their strategic plan. Powell expects 2016 to get “real busy” with working in the plan. Rose and Powell attended the accreditation seminar at Spring Mill State Park. “We are ahead of the six other counties,” in regards to the accreditation process, she said. The state dept. of health is not working on accreditation.

Death certificates
The health department’s Vital Records office does not offer the long form death certificate. It is not an open record, but family members often request it. One of the issues was whether to include a person’s social security number. After some discussion with Mike Stratton, a local funeral home director, and two staff members at Vital Records, the board agreed to allow the health department to give the full certified death certificates only to funeral home directors. They in turn can provide it to family members.

Pick up this week's edition of the Osgood Journal for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Milan set to buy squad car (front page)
• Pinwheels for Prevention event: Speaker shares story of abuse (front page)
• Local obituaries (page 2)
• Scam alert: Caller claiming to be IRS (page 3)
• Suspect bites officer: Regional Wrap-Up (page 6)
• Local Christian author: Pastor Don Buck (page 8)
• On the Record from the Ripley County Courthouse (page 11)
• Want to buy the newspaper? Click here to find out where!

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