Salem Health Department still looking at drug testing

SALEM – The Salem City Health District remains in the preliminary stages of exploring whether to add drug testing to its list of services.

City Health Commissioner Richard Setty and Mayor John Berlin, who by statute serves as chairman of the health board, updated other board members on where the process stood. Both had attended a meeting with Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey and Gary Dean, chairman of the Salem Civil Service Commission.

During a council meeting earlier this year, Dickey questioned why the health department couldn’t do the drug testing when part-time officers were being hired for the police department. Berlin said the question then evolved into why not offer testing as a service, noting it could be a way to supplement the department’s income.

For a urine test, they could charge $40 for a quick analysis test that would cost the department about $5 plus labor, he explained. Questions raised by board members included whether the health department would just be testing for new hires or random drug testing and what protocols would be in place to ensure a proper sample.

Board member Bill Wilkins also asked about insurance and whether that would have to increase for the liability. Setty planned to check on the insurance question, with Berlin saying they’ll discuss the idea more at the next meeting.

“We’ll move forward cautiously,” he said.

Setty said it’s “just a matter of trying to figure out all the ifs, ands or buts.”

In other business, he told board members they’ll be getting estimates for possibly replacing two computers after being told the Windows XP operating systems are no longer be supported by Microsoft and that’s part of the issue they’re having with viruses. The two computers in question had been donated and he said they’ve gotten a lot of good use out of them. He’ll be requesting a quote from Salem Computer Center for the cost and talking to the city auditor about the availability of appropriations to cover the cost.

He reported the recent free HIV testing and counseling clinic attracted one customer and will continue from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month. The free and confidential service is being provided in conjunction with the Alliance City and Mahoning County Health Districts, which received grant funding and wanted to extend the service to other areas, including Salem.

No appointments are necessary. People can just walk in and request the testing, which consists of a blood test. The service will include investigation and follow-up if necessary, counseling and education. As part of the clinic program, free condoms will be made available.

Setty also reported the department sent back 60 unused doses of flu vaccine to VaxCare out of the 100 doses supplied for the flu season. He said he received an email regarding preregistering for next flu season with VaxCare. Board member Judy Sicilia said they’ll need to start getting clinics lined up earlier this year, suggesting the department starts planning in August. Last year the department was initially cut off from receiving flu vaccine from VaxCare due to low usage the year before, but then the company went ahead and provided 100 doses.

In talking about a recent outbreak of mumps in the Ohio State University area, Setty said he was told it was traced back to international travel. He said that’s something people who travel should keep in mind and check travel health advisories and make sure they have the proper vaccinations in place before traveling to a foreign country. He said the Mahoning County Health Department has an international travel clinic.

He said some of the diseases people in this country think are conquered may be commonly found in other countries.

The next health board meeting will be held at 10 a.m. May 28 at the KSU City Center.