Unraveling the services at DHEC

Margaret Brackett - Contributing Columnist

Newberry County Palmetto Public Health District promotes and protects the health of the public and the environment. The agency visions “Healthy people living in healthy communities.”

DHEC’s programs and services are grouped under four primary divisions. Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, which protect coastal resources. Environmental Quality Control which enforces state environmental laws and regulations. Health Regulation which oversees revisions to the State Health Plan addressing need for medical facilities and services in areas of the state. Health Services while each county falls under their own facility, their purpose is to prevent infectious diseases; promotes healthy mothers, babies and families; improves environmental health in areas such as restaurants, septic tanks, mosquito and rabies; performs laboratory analyses for infectious diseases and newborn screening; provides in-home health care for seniors.

South Carolina is the only state that offers this number of services.

Newberry County Health Department is probably the part of DHEC with which people are most familiar. Their goal is not to provide services, but to assure that services are available to the residents in Newberry County.

The Health Department offers many direct services, most of which are by appointment to minimize wait times. There are fees for many of our services, but services are not denied to those who cannot afford to pay.

The services we provide are:

• Public Health Preparedness and Disease Control — The services often go hand in hand. Preparedness for bioterrorism, epidemics and other public threats and emergencies involves all areas of DHEC. All areas must be coordinated in order to respond rapidly and successfully to an act of bioterrorism, a serious or other public health emergency. All Health Department personnel are trained for our role in emergency response, most notably mass immunization or medication distribution.

• Immunizations — Available for children who are 18 years and under. The Adult Program serves individuals 19 years and over for whom the influenza, pneumococcal vaccines are recommended.

• Family Planning Program — Provide individuals the information and means to exercise personal choice in determining the number and spacing of their children. The Program provides a broad range of acceptable and effective medically approved family planning methods

• Sexually Transmitted Diseases — Provide services to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection, to reduce associated illness and death, and to provide care and support resources for persons with HIV disease.

• Tuberculosis — Responsible for protecting citizens of South Carolina from the communicable disease tuberculosis. TB is the single largest infectious cause of death in the world, killing about 3 million people every year, despite being both preventable and curable. South Carolina is ranked among the top 10 states nationally in the number of new cases per 100,000 people. TB, if left untreated, can result in a 50 percent mortality rate. For those infected, the program helps patients take their medications correctly. DHEC also is proactive in the development of regulations to protect the public, enforcement of TB control laws, including required reporting of suspected cases.

• Home Health Services — Works with patients and their doctor to develop a plan of care that meets their individual health care needs. The program is for those who have recently been discharged from a hospital or rehab facility. Nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists provide their services.

• WIC (Stands for women, infants and children) — Funded through US Department of Agriculture, assists states in safeguarding the health and nutritional well-being of our low income women, infants and children during critical growth periods. DHEC has been designated to administer the program.

• Vital Records — Each of South Carolina’s 46 counties has a vital records office in their public health department. Branch offices can search for birth and death records only. State law governs who can request these records: birth certificate, death certificate, marriage records, and divorce. The cost for all vital records documents is a non-refundable search fee of $12 for the first copy and $3 for each additional copy.

• Environmental Health Services — Charged with protecting the health of South Carolina families, visitors and our environment in the area of food protection, onsite wastewater management and general sanitation. When animal bite reports are received the general sanitation workers attempt to locate the offending animal and assure that it does not have rabies.

DHEC is a huge agency with tremendous responsibility. Having local offices with personnel who are dedicated to serving their own communities is what makes this agency work. Newberry County citizens can count their blessings with the numerous services provided to promote and protect their health and that of the public and the environment.


Margaret Brackett

Contributing Columnist

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.