Rowan County Health Department loses funding for their equity plan

Published 12:10 am Thursday, January 12, 2023

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Health Department will lose its main source of funding for its Advancing Equity Plan at the end of the fiscal year on July 1.

“This is the unfortunate part of public health. These projects pop up and it’s this really great thing and this thing that’s going to take much longer than a year or two to actually solve and then the funding goes away. For us, we’re trying to do as many policy systems, environmental changes, and structural changes as possible because those at least can continue without staffing versus something that’s more direct service,” Public Health Director Alyssa Harris said.

The state had applied for the initial grant through the CDC and it was later disbursed to each county. The equity plan is set in place to make sure health services are readily available and accessible to everyone who needs it, regardless of background or logistics.

“To me, we can not be successful as an agency if we are not able to meet people where they are and to me that’s what equity is. It’s helping people where they are and giving them all the things they need to advance their health,” Harris reiterated.

Some of the things the health department does for this plan is making sure all documentation is bilingual, having translators available, and basic training to make staff aware of the things Rowan County residents are going through. The health department will continue its food pharmacy program at Main Street Marketplace, to study the demographics of the population that it is serving, and to give training to its employees.

Harris advised that they will work on seeking grants, collaborate with other health departments, and advocate with the state for additional funding that goes beyond the fiscal year. She said the main thing she wishes to accomplish in the immediate future is effective communication with the community on what is being done.

Components of the equity plan will transition to another one called Healthy Communities that deals with smoking cessation, mental health and suicide prevention training. Some of Healthy Communities’ funding will be allocated towards the equity plan and other non-profits so that its work can proceed.

“Equity work is extremely important. The whole health department just went through a whole strategic plan, equity is at the forefront of all those initiatives that we’re going to be working on and all of our goals,” Community Health Manager Courtney Meece stressed.