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Lolita Kirk, director of the Putnam County Health Department, speaks to Putnam Rotary at Area 34 in Hurricane on Sept. 10.

The following is a synopsis of the Putnan Rotary meeting of Sept. 10. The club meets at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays at Area 34 in Hurricane.

After an interval of joint operation with Kanawha county, Putnam once again has its own Health Department with Lolita Kirk serving as its own administrator since last July.

“We are looking forward to ways we can provide additional public health services for Putnam,” she told local Rotarians this morning.

“This is Preparedness Month for public health,” she said. “This is September, the anniversary of 9/11. The role of public health changed drastically after 9/11. When the towers came down in New York City, we were not known as response agencies.”

“But since that date, we have been handed a new role by the federal government. Now, they said, you’re going to be one of our agencies. You need to be involved in emergency preparedness and response.

“But, we said, we’re not firemen. We don’t run into burning buildings. We’re not policemen. We give shots. We do inspections.

“Then H1N1 happened (that was the influenza virus in 2009), and all those training sessions on mass clinics and how to work with community partners made sense.

“We’ve had some really bad floods. We had the water crisis in 2014. And now I’m thinking, maybe they did know what they were talking about.”

There are quarterly strategy sessions on emergency preparedness, she said. The health department meets with people from hospitals, schools, law enforcement, first responders and utility representatives.“We check around restaurants when there are power outages,” she said. “How long has the power been out? Is the water safe?

We immunize those who can receive vaccinations, and protect those who cannot. For those who cannot be exposed, it’s the community’s responsibility to protect them.”

The health department now does an assessment every three years on local needs.

“We want to partner with the community,” she said. “What are the priorities for Putnam county? How are we going to address them?”

The local health board has broad discretion in setting the scope of community service.

“There are 48 local health departments in West Virginia,” Kirk said. Some of the departments serve more than one county, so all counties are covered.

The local office in Putnam is located in Winfield, and Rotarian Cindy Farley chairs the five-member board of health.

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