Chautauqua County’s Health Department plans to visit schools in the area with its own wheels.
During the recent legislature meeting, county lawmakers approved a resolution for a grant that totals $3.8 million — part of which came in 2021 and the rest that is coming in 2022. The grant is for reopening of schools.
It was not discussed during the legislature meeting. However, in committee meetings from the week prior, Christine Schuyler, director of the Health and Human Services department, explained how the money would be used.
“This funding is for everything we’re doing in K-12 schools,” she said. “It entails everything from personal protective equipment to testing supplies, to staff to do testing to kids immunization programs and clinics that we ran at the schools. Any materials, educational outreach, using our lab license, there’s a gamut of things that we’re doing with the K-12 schools throughout this pandemic.”
One of the things they’re going to use the money on is for a mobile unit. It will cost around $280,000, which is part of that $3.8 million. “It really is a coup for our county,” Schuyler said. “We always dreamed about having one of these for public health, but I never thought we would have the ability to do so, and this funding enables us to do this. This isn’t just COVID-specific. With this mobile unit, we’ll be able to utilize it to go out to the schools and do education outreach events and assist with immunizations at schools.”
Schuyler noted that the University at Buffalo visits many locations in Chautauqua County with its mobile dental van. She said this new mobile unit will be similar. She added that the mobile unit’s size will be similar to a bread truck; it will not require a special license and they are not adding staff.
Even though the county is adding the mobile unit, Schuyler said this isn’t a new program. She said in the past the county Health Department’s nurses have visited schools, however, staff had to use their own vehicles and they would load up the supplies in coolers that had to be dragged in and out.
Schuyler said the county will be responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle. She hopes they will be able to find grant funding to help with that. She did say even though the county will own the mobile unit, some other costs will go down.
“There’s a decrease in mileage costs. There’s a decrease in liability of our staff driving their own vehicles,” she said.
Audit and Control Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, believes the mobile unit can help other groups beyond school children. “I can see where this would be very helpful for the Amish community,” he said.
Legislator Terry Niebel asked if children can get vaccinated without their parents there. Schuyler said that won’t happen. “No minor can get a vaccination without the consent of their parents,” she said.
Even though the legislature has accepted the funding, Schuyler said it’s going to be at least six months before the mobile unit arrives in Chautauqua County and they may end up waiting until 2023 before putting it in use.
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