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DANBURY Health Dept. seeks national accreditation

September 21, 2018

DANBURY — Local health officials have started the arduous process to become public health accredited, a coveted designation recognizing departments that adhere to national best practices.

The process can take two to three years to complete, including a slew of self audits and peer reviews, but it would be a special distinction that could help open the door to bring more grant funding to Danbury, Health and Human Services Director Lisa Morrissey said.

“We want to become public health accredited so that we’re providing better programs, more efficient programs and more services to residents without increasing the financial costs to the city or taxpayers,” she said. “The accreditation process really allows us to take a look at the existing services to see how well they fit with the needs of the community and how we can change our internal organizational structure to better meet those needs.”

If successful, Danbury’s team would become just the fifth Connecticut health department to have earned the status from the national Public Health Accreditation Board.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health received accreditation early last year and local departments in Naugatuck Valley, Norwalk, Stratford and Putnam County, N.Y., have picked it up over the past four years.

In all, more than 235 local, state and tribal public health systems have earned the designation and Danbury is among another almost 200 now undertaking the process, according to the board.

By comparing protocols, services and procedures with that family of accredited departments, the Danbury team can ensure its own procedures are “peer-reviewed, evidence-based” to be in a better position to secure large, multi-year federal grants, said Kara Prunty, associated director of the Danbury health department.

“It’s basically a giant audit of ourselves,” Prunty said. “It’s like an internal audit to make sure that we are providing the best services we can and getting our documentation in order and basically just making sure we’re as efficient as possible.”

Morrissey and Prunty will lead the pre-application process over the next 12 to 24 months by conducting reviews of each area the department oversees, including everything from food inspections to housing complaints to emergency preparedness.

The application will then be reviewed by peer departments and eventually the board itself.

Accreditation is the latest step the department has taken this year to bring its rules and procedures up to speed. The department began posting its restaurant inspections online this summer, expanded which businesses require health inspections and created a plan to catch up with state law to conduct local inspections of day care providers.

Next month, the department will sponsor free flu shots at City Hall, area schools and during upcoming community events, Morrissey and Prunty said.

“We’ve just been trying to be more visible in the community,” Prunty said. “A lot of the things we hear are, ‘Oh, we didn’t know the health department offered that.’ We want people to know what we can do for them here.”

“Everyone knows what you call the fire department for, but people don’t know what you call the health department for,” Morrissey added.

zach.murdock@hearstmediact.com

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