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Health dept. meets with state over ADA issues

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

The Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department will receive its quarterly payment of more than $95,000 in state funding, provided a report submitted to the state shows that the department has made corrections to the building in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or has a plan to address problem areas.

State officials from the Bureau for Public Health met with members of the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department Tuesday for more than two hours at a special meeting to discuss the health department's compliance with ADA.

"Changes can't be made overnight and we recognize that," said Dr. Henry G. Taylor, commissioner of the state Bureau for Public Health. "We agreed on the goal today, which is to have public accessibility to public health services."

The board received notification last week that its funding was in jeopardy, unless the board submitted a report to the state by Oct. 5 addressing the issues of compliance.

Both Taylor and Kay Shamblin, director for the Division of Public Health Nursing and Administration, attended Tuesday's meeting after touring the health department.

Taylor told board members the letter was prompted by several complaints to the state agency about the building's ADA compliance, including phone calls and a letter from a private citizen to the governor's office.

Board members stated they had not seen any letter or received complaints about services.

"There has never been a case where a person has been denied services for handicapped accessibility reasons or any other reasons," said Mary Ann Iquinto, board president.

The state officials also discussed two ADA reports that were made last spring -- one by Harrison County ADA Coordinator Terry L. Schulte and the other by Dale Castilla, an engineer from the Division of Rehabilitation Services.

The two reports were conflicting, according to Taylor.

Castilla's letter recommended that the health department "consider other locations that are accessible or where accessibility can be more readily achieved."

Schulte's letter stated that "reasonable accommodations" could be made and listed specific areas that needed addressed.

The department has made changes to comply with ADA standards, based on Schulte's report, according to Iquinto.

A new, large front door, lowered elevator controls, a handicapped accessible bathroom and a treatment area on the first floor have all been added to comply with ADA recommendations.

"Our failure to keep Charleston informed as to what progress we have made is the major fault here," Iquinto said. "Now we are going to let them know what we've done and what we plan to do."

Taylor asked the board to submit a report listing corrections the department has made and also a plan to look at other problems such as narrow hallways.

There is also concern about the handicapped accessible bathroom being on the second floor, while the handicapped accessible treatment room is on the first floor.

The report also needs to contain progress updates from the two committees formed to examine property sites and other possible locations for the department, Taylor said.

"We think the communication was here today so that funding will not be interrupted," Taylor said. "Our discussion today was about how to best provide services with extremely limited resources."

Taylor praised the board and the staff for the quality of services they have continued to provide to the public during a stressful year.

"I think everyone made a good faith effort today," Iquinto said. "It is not in their interest to take funding away from us, but to help us maintain our funding level."

The board is compiling the report to be sent to the state and will hold a special meeting Thursday at 11 a.m. to discuss the report before sending it to Charleston.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or jbiller@exponent-telegram.com.

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