By Lucas Lord
For the most part of the past two years the Cass County Health Department has had to focus most of its resources in dealing with COVD-19. Now, the department is working to resume immunizations and other programs paused during the pandemic and to make that happen it is moving into a larger, more permanent space at 1411 S. Commercial, the former Forged by Fire building.
For as long as many can remember, the health department has worked out of a small office space at 300 S. Main St. But even without the pandemic, Health Department Director Sarah Czech, said the plan was to find more space.
“Our capacity to deliver services is limited by our building space,” said Czech. “We have now grown beyond what our building here can offer us. Our ability to hold educational classes without the space to spare hasn’t been possible, and as we have more and more clients our parking is full too.”
As services began to get stretched thin during the pandemic, Czech said the department has had to nearly triple the size of its workforce just to keep up.
“Soon we will be able to resume those traditional tuberculosis, hepatitis A and other communicable disease investigations,” Czech said. “At our new space we will have more dedicated exam rooms with lab spaces equipped to properly store COVID vaccinations. Our clinical spaces will be isolated away from the public and we will finally have a conference room where we will be able to resume a number of the health courses that we were offering before.”
While the renovations for the new department will take six to nine months, Czech said it is a much-needed transition.
“In the meantime, we will have to play it by ear as to if we will need any more temporary spaces,” she said. “It’s important that we have all our resources working together and that we aren’t scattered about across town. We have had to be really strategic with our staff placement and how we deliver services so those educational classes, unless they’ve been a contractual obligation, haven’t been something that’s been prioritized nor something we could provide in good conscience given our working environment right now.”
Prior to the pandemic, Czech said the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program was downstairs in the basement of the Main Street office and far from ADA compliant.
“We didn’t want pregnant women and small children having to navigate themselves down concrete stairs anymore,” Czech said. “Now that the WIC office has moved over to a shared space at the dental clinic (at 103 S. Oriole St.), we have four staff working down in the basement.”
The health department actually had been working in the S. Commercial location as a COVID testing and vaccination site.
When it was decided to take over and remodel the facility, another property, located at 2061 N. Commercial St. was set up to handle the COVID functions temporarily.
“I don’t know if in the future we will have as much of a need for those types of satellite offices, so we will have to keep an eye on things as we go,” said Czech. “I hope we don’t need them.”
Over the last two years the department has moved various aspects of its services around Harrisonville as staff and clientele needs have expanded.
“My hope is to have as many of our services located together under the same roof for the sake of those needing a variety of services,” Czech said. “If you need a referral, you would be able to get it right there.”
With more staff than before the pandemic, Czech said previously the problem was lack of staff, now the issue is more COVID protocols.
“Staffing has always been a limiting factor of ours,” she said. “Now we have people working offsite doing testing or helping to run clinics, so they aren’t here to organize classes or other programs. We’ve been fortunate to continue offering CPR classes but other than that the services we offer have been really limited lately.”
Once the new space is completed, Czech said, other than the WIC office, the rest of the health department would move under one roof.
“It’s time for a change,” she said.