By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

County commissioners, on Sept. 27, heard from Otter Tail County Public Health Director Jody Lien and two of her staff members about the many services offered to residents in Otter Tail County.

“We work to protect, maintain and improve the health of all people who call Otter Tail County home,” Lien said. “Our department has approximately 40 employees and an annual budget of close to $4 million in local, state, federal and fee-based funds.”

PartnerSHIP4Health (P4H) is a collaboration of the local public health agencies in Otter Tail, Becker, Clay and Wilkin counties and other community partners working to prevent chronic disease.

“We do this through sustainable changes that increase physical activity, healthy eating and reducing tobacco use,” Lien said. “P4H counties are at work with schools, worksites, communities, health care, childcare and human services organizations.”

Lien spoke to county commissioners along with County Public Health Assistant Director Kristi Wentworth and County Family Health Supervisor Kristin Bye.

Medical Assistance (MA) home care and Minnesota waiver programs pay for a range of medical and health care-related support services. These services enable low-income Minnesotans, including those in Otter Tail County, who are elderly or who have disabilities, to live as independently as possible in their communities. 

Waivers refer to home and community-based services available under a federal Medicaid waiver as an alternative to institutional care. Interdisciplinary teams in public health and human services support these programs.

“We have 846 residents here in Otter Tail County who receive care coordination and services through Secure Blue and UCare Community Well, UCare Nursing Home and UCare Special needs care coordination programs,” Lien said.

Otter Tail County Public Health staff members work to ensure the public health department is ready to respond. This work includes updating departmental emergency response plans, departmental training and coordination with local health care partners.

“Our departmental goal is to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of public health emergencies,” Lien said. “Reviews were completed at various stages of the pandemic. Staff completed surveys and interviews to give feedback on the departmental pandemic response.”

Lien and her staff members will compile this information and identify areas of strength and opportunity. “This will help support the agency response moving forward for Covid-19 and other future emergencies,” she said.