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Joining the ranks of accredited health departments

After a lot of work the Crook County Health Department has been designated as one of 54 accredited departments nationwide

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The Crook County Health Department staff, pictured left to right, front row, Emma Reynolds and baby Pearl, Ruby Ruiz, Dianne Koops, and Wendy McCoy; back row, left to right, Regina Sanchez, Becky Lundgren, Karen Yeargain, Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown, Kris Williams, Paula Yvonne, Mindy Stomner, Carly Rachocki, Renee Sheehy and Alanna Spry.

The Crook County Health Department has earned national accreditation status from the Public Health Accreditation Board, one of only 54 departments in the country to do so.

"Public health accreditation means that the Crook County Health Department has met a high standard of excellence to ensure programs and services are responsive to the needs of our community,” said its director, Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown. “With accreditation, we are demonstrating an increased accountability and credibility to the public, our funders, elected officials, and partner organizations with whom we work.”

The department was notified in September that it had met the required standards and joins departments in Deschutes, Marion and Clackamas counties to have received the recognition from PHAB, the independent organization that administers the National Public Health Accreditation program.

DeLaVergne-Brown explained that an important aspect of accreditation is to set standards for public health services against which departments can then be measured.

For Crook County, the process of meeting those standards was long, taking almost two years to complete the required documentation.

According to Brown, the department's application for accreditation included a site visit by PHAB to ensure that Crook County was actually doing what they said they were.

“The entire process is incredibly strenuous,” she said “But, what is exciting is that we have to be one of the smallest departments in the country, amongst the over 3,000 eligible, to have achieved this honor.”

DeLaVergne-Brown explained that considered departments come from local and state health departments as well as those serving territorial and tribal communities.

“Accreditation shows that we have achieved a high standard for departments across the country.” she said. “Obtaining this level of recognition could become important for obtaining funding in the future as well.”

The national accreditation program is jointly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose funding created PHAB in 2007.

“Residents of a community served by a nationally accredited health department can be assured that their health department has demonstrated the capacity to protect and promote the health of that community,” said PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN.

DeLaVergne-Brown agreed, adding that being able to display the seal of accreditation is a way of showing patients that Crook County has been rigorously examined and meets or exceeds national standards that promote continuous quality improvement for public health.

“By continuing to improve our services and performance, we can be sure we are meeting the public health needs of those we serve as effectively as possible,” she said, adding Oregon also wants health departments to serve clients in a certain way.

“Being accredited shows that we are far along the state's spectrum, showing that we are doing the right thing,” said DeLaVergne-Brown.

According to Brown, the accreditation process provided valuable feedback to the department regarding its strengths and areas for improvement so that they can better protect and promote the health of the people in the community.

“We are extremely honored, and I must recognize my staff who worked incredibly hard,” she said. “It is about the entire department as well as our county commission that supported us throughout the entire process.”

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