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Delco Announces New Program to Stop Overdose Deaths

(From a press release.)

The Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) launched a new campaign this week to provide free life-saving resources, including NARCAN® nasal spray, Xylazine test strips, Fentanyl test strips and wound care kits, and training. The Delco Revive campaign is paid for through the Opioid Settlement Fund. DCHD leaders, including Director Melissa Lyon, provided details of the initiative and how residents, organizations, schools and businesses can take advantage of these resources and trainings at a news conference at the Delaware County Wellness Center in Yeadon on Tuesday.

Phil Waibel, a local survivor who works as a therapist and Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative Coordinator at MVP Recovery, shared his remarkable journey of being revived by the administration of NARCAN. Having battled an opiate addiction that started when he was in college and progressed to the point of losing his girlfriend and job, and being evicted from his apartment, Waibel overdosed and was resuscitated by EMTs on his way to the hospital. It was after that life-threatening nightmare that Waibel made the decision to seek recovery.

All these life-saving tools are available to organizations, schools, businesses and individual community members at all three DCHD office locations in Chester, Yeadon, and Eddystone. NARCAN Nasal Spray, or Naloxone, is an overdose-reversing medication. Known for its ease of us, it can save someone’s life instantly. Fentanyl and xylazine test strips are inexpensive drug testing technologies. They can detect any level of fentanyl or xylazine in substances in seconds. American Heart Association Basic Life Support CPR certification and “Stop the Bleed” training appointments are available for free and can be scheduled by calling the Delaware County Wellness Line at 484-276-2100 or by email.

In addition, the Delco Revive campaign aims to end the stigmas regarding substance use disorders, finding help, and recovery options.

First, there’s a stigma that you can harm someone and get into trouble administering NARCAN, or for taking other life-saving emergency actions. This is false. NARCAN cannot harm or injure anyone who is experiencing an overdose or life-threatening event.

Second, medical, and non-medical civilians are protected by the Good Samaritan Act, which guards anyone who renders emergency care, first aid, or rescue at a scene.

There is also a stigma that you do not need to carry NARCAN because you, your friends, or family do not have substance use disorders. But carrying NARCAN is not only about saving the lives of people we know; it is about having the tools available to save any life at any time.

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Delco Judge Backs Municipalities in Battle With County Over Health Inspectors

A Common Pleas judge ruled Thursday the Delaware County Health Department can’t bigfoot local municipalities when it comes to health inspections of restaurants, businesses, schools, and public swimming pools.

Judge James P. Bradley enjoined the Delaware County Health Department from inspections in the municipalities involved in his ruling after a Feb. 1 trial.

The towns include Middletown, Thornbury, Clifton Heights, Eddystone, Prospect Park, Ridley, and Lower Chichester.

In 2022, Judge Spiros Angelos ruled the county could not take over health inspections from first-class townships unless the townships agreed.

The DCHD was accredited on Feb. 28, 2022, and obtained state approval that April. It costs $10 million or so each year, but much of the funding comes from state and federal grants. Democrats, who swept county council offices in 2019, ran on creating a county health department.

Once inspectors were hired, the county began conducting health inspections in the 49 towns in the county. However, the municipalities mentioned above and a handful of others already had health departments in place and fought to continue performing the inspections locally.

Lower Chichester received a letter from the state Department of Health confirming it was entitled to continue the health inspections. The county then sued it, bringing it into the litigation. Other towns had sued the county to stop its inspectors from performing inspections.

Jim Byrne, the lawyer representing Springfield, Ridley and Aston, said he was “very pleased with the court’s ruling. I think it is consistent with facts and law.”

Jeff Seagraves, Thornbury Township manager, said, “We’re pleased with the outcome of the trial.”

Frank Catania, solicitor for Lower Chichester, said the municipality tried to work cooperatively with the county and even asked the state Health Department for guidance, only to be sued by the county.

Township administrator Joseph Possenti Jr. said they were “very disappointed” when the county sued them.

“We didn’t want to fight,” said Possenti. He said they tried to arrange talks with the county about the health inspections but were unsuccessful.

After the county sued Lower Chichester, county Councilwoman Christine Reuther brought up the litigation at the Dec. 6, 2023, council meeting and told her fellow council members that she objected to giving Lower Chichester a $45,000 grant to tear down a derelict building on Green Street.

“Lower Chichester is one of the municipalities which is refusing to allow Delaware County Health Department health inspectors to do their inspections,” said Reuther, saying the town had sued the county rather than the other way around. “They’re costing us to spend a considerable amount of money in legal fees.”

After listening to Reuther, the council voted against the grant.

Business owners were shocked to find that health inspection fees increased significantly when the county took over. Lower Chichester charges $75 to inspect a business. But the county charges $300 or $400, said Possenti.

“That’s what they charge some of these restaurants and bars,” he said. “It’s a lot of money.”

“I’m very happy with the judge’s decision,” said Possenti. “We’ve been doing this (health inspections) for a number of years… It’s small businesses in Lower Chi that get inspected, a pizza shop, and the elementary school. We’ve been doing it for years and doing it well. We’ve never had any issues with food contamination. Our health officers do a great job, and we don’t make money off it. We cover her fee and charge the customer.”

“The county is currently reviewing the opinion with its attorneys to determine whether to appeal,” said spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky. “The county and the Delaware County Health Department remain committed to its mission to build healthy and thriving communities throughout Delaware County.”

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Officials Claim Delco Health Department Spared from State Budget Stalemate

As the Pennsylvania state budget stalemate drags on, entities that depend on state funding will soon begin feeling the pinch.

But officials said the new Delaware County Health Department is not one of them.

“Delaware County Council is reviewing all of the county and state-funded agencies and the impact that a prolonged state budget impasse would have,” said Adrienne Marofsky. “The Delaware County Health Department is not currently impacted by the state budget impasse. Overall, the programmatic DCHD services are federally funded. All monthly grant invoices are being processed and paid, and there is no disruption to services provided by DCHD.”

The county health department’s 2023 budget will cost $18,294,538 for 2022-2023, with its “primary funding sources” being “grants and reimbursements.”

The new department has been controversial since its inception. And an analysis of the functions that county officials claimed credited to it showed they were performed by the state, such as COVID-19 vaccines, and that many were given before it even opened, meaning the tally was 2,364 rather than 172,000.

Also, a Johns Hopkins student who examined health services in the county found it could do better by creating improved organization around services already provided by the state instead of creating its own health department.

Townships in Delaware County previously balked at the proposal that the health department take over health inspections overseen by local inspectors. In some cases, the fee hike on those inspections was projected to top 500 percent.

Multiple Delaware County towns asked the Court of Common Pleas to block the plan’s implementation. The court maintained an injunction against the inspections for much of 2022.

In October, Common Pleas Judge Spiros Angelos formally barred the county from conducting inspections in first-class townships. However, lower-level municipalities will still be subject to county health department oversight.

To start the department in 2021, the county used $4.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and took another $3.9 million from its capital improvement plan.

Republican candidate for county Council, Jeff Jones, is concerned about the county’s use of ARPA funds for various functions and programs, a practice that he believes is unsustainable because those funds are not permanent.

He said the Democratically-controlled council has used ARPA funds to start programs that will soon need increased tax dollars to continue. And council members have admitted they plan to raise taxes, he noted.

“They’re not spending money in a sustainable way,” said Jones. “If I told you what we foresee in just 2024 in the budget for the county, it will shock you because there is a looming tax increase. And that’s my evaluation…That is their words. That is the current council’s words. They can’t sustain the spending that they’ve done because they’ve got a blank check known as ARPA funds, and it’s plugged a lot of holes, but it’s created one big gaping hole.”

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Delco Dumps $10M on New Health Dept. While EMS Is on ‘Life Support’

Delaware County’s gleaming new health department last month marked its first year in operation after what the county said was “a year of accomplishments.”

Emergency first responders in the county may agree to disagree.

That was the topic of discussion at last month’s “EMS on Life Support” meeting in Brookhaven, where county council members, state legislators, and emergency first responders gathered to discuss the crises facing local ambulance and rescue workers, including bare-bones insurance reimbursements, low rates of pay, and chronic staffing issues.

The major financial squeeze comes as the year-old Delaware County Health Department is drawing millions of dollars to fund its operating expenses. The county health department’s 2023 budget will cost $18,294,538 for 2022-2023, with its “primary funding sources” being “grants and reimbursements.”

Brookhaven EMS Administrator Dave Montella said at the April meeting, “If something doesn’t change in the next year, year and a half,” then Delaware County “will not be in the EMS service, period.”

Montella told DVJournal that “the issues that we’re facing, primarily, are staffing and gross underpayments from insurance companies.”

“It’s basically providing a chokehold,” he said.

Montella said there were “multiple reasons for the staffing issues,” which he noted go back as far as 2017. He said at that time, “We saw a gradual decrease in people entering into the profession,” while emergency responders began to struggle with retention rates as well.

“Definitely post-COVID, and during, we lost tremendous numbers of people,” he explained, estimating “probably, nationwide, a greater-than-30 percent loss of EMS providers” in the wake of the pandemic.

Insurance companies are paying out low reimbursements, Montella said, and consequently, rescue squads and local governments have had to keep pay rates low for emergency workers.

The end result is EMS workers leaving “to work at restaurants, Home Depot, Lowes. They’re getting more money there when they’re doing a job when there’s no danger of bringing something to home to their family,” he said.

Asked about the new county health department, Montella said it is “completely separate” from county EMS operations and “has no bearing” on any emergency services.

“It’s just something the county thought it needed to do to provide for the residents to get strong advice, particularly during the pandemic,” he said.

Delaware County state Rep. Lisa Borowski told DVJournal the health department’s outreach functions will help “support our fire/EMS [by] providing people increased access to preventive healthcare and keeping people healthy, so there are less emergent situations.”

Regarding more funding for EMS workers, Borowski (D-Newtown Square) pointed to her introduction of House Bill 479, which she said would “allow for EMS to be reimbursed for transport of Medicaid patients.”

That bill was unanimously voted out of committee Monday and will go to the full house.

Rep. Jennifer O’Mara(D-Springfield) thanked Borowski for authoring it.

“We have hospital closures impacting our communities all across the commonwealth,” said O’Mara. “And one of the things I’ve heard from EMS providers is they’re now forced to drive longer distances. Now they may not be out of the 20 mile range, but they’re still taking on more and in the ambulance for longer periods of time. So anything that’s been done to address this issue, I think that’s been a really important part of the bill. Anything we can do to help them is huge in so many different ways. So I just wanted to thank the maker of the bill for working on this. Thank you.”

“Currently, they do not get reimbursed until they transport 20 miles, this bill will eliminate the mileage requirement, so EMS get paid for services,” Borowski said.

“But we also need to lobby to increase Medicaid reimbursement,” she added, “and I hope to work with our federal representatives to address this issue.”

In addition to low reimbursements, Borowski said insurance billing practices present another hurdle for EMS administrators to overcome.

“Direct billing by some insurance companies sees the reimbursements being sent to the patient with the expectation they then pay the EMS for care,” she said. “This does not always happen, and in many cases, the [return on investment] on trying to recoup these funds presents a challenge for volunteers whose time is stretched with many responsibilities.”

Montella agreed reimbursement problems are the major hurdle to driving up pay rates for responders.

“We would love to pay them more,” he said, “but our only way of paying them is through medical reimbursement. We don’t have the ability to pass it on to the consumer.”

In addition to its high price tag amid local EMS financial struggles, the new county health department has been mired in administrative controversy since its inception.

And an analysis of the functions that county officials claimed credited to the new health department showed they were actually performed by the state, such as COVID-19 vaccines, and showed many were given before the health department began, meaning the tally was 2,364 rather than 172,000.

Also, a Johns Hopkins student who examined health services in the county found the county could do better by creating better organization around the services already provided by the state instead of creating its own health department.

Townships in Delaware County previously balked at the proposal that the health department take over health inspections overseen by local inspectors. In some cases, the fee hike on those inspections was projected to top 500 percent.

Multiple Delco towns asked the county Court of Common Pleas to block the plan’s implementation. The court maintained an injunction against the inspections for much of 2022.

In October, Common Pleas Judge Spiros Angelos formally barred the county from conducting inspections in first-class townships, though lower-level municipalities will still be subject to county health department oversight.

The health department, county council and the Delaware County Black Caucus will hold an open house at the  remodeled DCHD Wellness Center in Chester on Saturday from 11 a.m. t0 2 p.m. with a rain date set for Sunday.  The Wellness Center is 151 W. 5th Street in Chester.

“The revitalization of our Wellness Center at Chester is a symbol of our commitment to the people of Chester and its surrounding communities,” said Director Melissa Lyon. “The first step in helping people feel better is making them feel welcomed and invited into our Wellness Centers.”

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Delco Garners Nearly $1M in Federal Funds for Maternal Health

From a press release

Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor Ph.D., Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer and Delaware County Health Department Director Melissa Lyon participated in a press conference hosted by Sen. Bob Casey and Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon on April 25 at the Delaware County Courthouse.

The press conference highlighted substantial funding for the Delaware County Health Department.

Casey and Scanlon, both Democrats, secured $954,000 in community project funding that will allow the Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) to create a new workforce development program to train Perinatal Community Health Care Workers (PCHW) and doulas who can work to reduce racial disparities in maternal health.

The program also aims to reduce racial and economic disparities in maternal care through education, targeted training, and deployment of doulas in communities that have the highest disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. The goal of this program is to ensure that Delaware County women will receive the support they need to assist in healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as reduce disparities in maternal and birth outcomes.

Casey and Scanlon fought for this community project funding to improve maternal health outcomes in Southeastern Pennsylvania and bolster the health care workforce.

“When the Delaware County Health Department applied for community project funding, it struck me that infant mortality rates were three times higher for babies born to Black mothers than those born to White mothers here in Delco,” said Casey. “If we are not keeping moms and babies safe, then we are not doing enough to keep our nation safe. By investing in community health workers, this project invests in those who know their community best, making them uniquely suited to provide the proper maternal health care to their neighbors.”

The disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color has brought a new focus to health disparities, including the longstanding inequities in maternal and infant health, officials said.

Many low-income families in Delaware County have challenges accessing healthcare and some families struggle because English is not a first language. Those challenges are also compounded by the fact that the Delaware County community recently lost a birthing hospital- Delaware County Memorial Hospital- which serves a large population, many of which are low-income and English is not their first language, officials said.

There is a crisis in Delaware County and throughout the nation regarding maternal and infant mortality. Black and Brown women are three times more likely to die during childbirth compared to White women. And research also shows that Black women are at significantly higher risk for severe maternal morbidity, such as preeclampsia. And Black women have higher rates of admission to the intensive care unit during delivery compared to White women. There are clear racial disparities in maternal and infant health and it’s critical that we work to raise awareness and create change, officials said.

“Every mother in our community deserves to live a happy, healthy life with her baby, but tragically, our country has the worst maternal health outcomes in the developed world, and Black women are three times more likely to die from childbirth than white women, said Scanlon.

“With this new federal funding for additional maternal health care workers and doulas, Delaware County is taking urgently needed action to reverse these alarming trends and protect our mothers and babies. I’m grateful for Sen. Casey and Delaware County’s partnership in advancing evidence-based solutions that will save lives and reduce disparities.”

Members of the newly created Delaware County Maternal Child Health Committee also attended the press conference. In February, county Council and the county Health Department formed the Delaware County Maternal Child Health Committee to address the critical public health issues facing mothers and children in our community. The committee is working to address the disparities in maternal health outcomes in Delaware County.

Subcommittees will be formed in other key areas of concern, including concerns that will be identified by the upcoming Delaware County Needs Assessment.

“The Committee’s expertise and passion surrounding maternal and children’s health can help the county to prevent deaths and also greatly improve the overall health and well-being of women, babies, and children across the county,” said Taylor. “As council and the County Health Department gain valuable information and data, we can utilize the community project funding to work to improve maternal health outcomes in Delaware County. Our goal is that every pregnant woman has a healthy pregnancy and their babies have a healthy start when they are brought into this world.”

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TRACY: Victories Claimed by Delco’s Health Department Ring Hollow

This column first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

Credit for good works matters a lot in politics, as it naturally should.

The Delaware County Council understands this, which is why the county put out a year’s-end press release touting all of the achievements of the $20,000,000 health department the county formally created in April — a long-standing dream of Democrats and progressives in the county.

Yet, a closer look at some of the numbers the county released shows the county is claiming credit for activities that were likely already offered by the state,  claiming credit for activities that were going to be undertaken anyway or, in one case, grossly exaggerating their efforts.

Take the county’s statistic that it “administered 172,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses as of the end of November.” You might think that’s the number of shots the health department gave in the clinic at the strip mall in Yeadon that the county overpaid for. But, after Broad + Liberty asked for a breakdown by location, we learned that the site only jabbed 1,149 people since the Delaware County Health Department was formally established around April 2022.

The full breakdown provided by a spokesperson with the Delaware County Health Department shows us a summary of the number of Covid vaccines actually “administered” by DCHD from April 2022 through December 22, 2022, by location:

  • Chester: 92
  • Yeadon: 1,149
  • Yeadon (children <5): 74
  • Homebound: 519
  • Community events throughout the county: 530

After Broad + Liberty questioned the County, the number of administered vaccine shots dropped from 172,000 to 2,364. I understand wanting to put your best foot forward but exaggerating the count by 170,000 is a bit much.

“Prior to April 2022, the Delaware County Covid-19 Task Force administered vaccinations at Yeadon and a range of other locations throughout the county,” said a spokesperson for DCHD.

Nothing could illustrate better the county already had the ability to provide these services [emergency vaccination rollouts, etc.] without a health department than these statistics.

Such an example only underscores the long running debate on how to best provide basic health services in the county.

A 2010 study by Johns Hopkins University examined health services in the county, acknowledging that many who commissioned the study were interested in the specific question of whether the county should create a stand-alone health department. One of the general findings was that the county could do better by simply creating more organization around services already provided for by the state.

“Public health in Delaware County does not function as a system; there is no known designated public health leader, or centralized structure for public health information,” the report said.

The county’s release has other examples of services that were already available or were already going to be undertaken, including mentions of free pregnancy testing. Other counties (Berks, for example) provide these services with state grants but also without standalone county health departments.

The county’s press release brags about restaurant inspections. Municipalities were already handling this task. In fact several communities in the county sued and are continuing to do the inspections locally.

Another of the justifications for opening the $20,000,000 taxpayer-funded health department was that the public would be better protected from the ravages of the Covid epidemic. According to a recent article in the Sunday, February 5th edition of the Delco Daily Times, the county has an infection rate 15 percent higher than the statewide rate. Only seven counties have a health department and over fifty don’t. You might ask: what am I getting for my money?

With all of this as background, it becomes more and more clear that Delaware County Democrats fell prey to the “do something” bias, also known as the “action bias.”

This bias “describes our innate tendency to respond to situations by taking some kind of action, even when we have no evidence that it will lead to a better outcome and might even make things worse,” according to an article in SciTechDaily.

Summarizing the seminal study on the bias by environmental scientists Anthony Patt and economist Richard Zeckhauser, SciTechDaily noted, “decision-makers have a bias for taking action even if it makes the situation slightly worse, and that this bias is even stronger if the decision-maker is acting as an agent for other people.”

Despite having other viable options, Delaware County Democrats made the decision to create another costly bureaucratic institution; the functions of which are nearly identical to state and municipal health services which already exist.

DCHD’s time, money, and resources would be better spent creating the superior public health outcomes it promises, rather than misattributing statistics to justify its existence.

Delco Health Department Offers Free COVID Tests

From a press release

On Friday, June 10, the Delaware County Health Department, in partnership with Personic Health Care, opened a new COVID-19 testing site at the Delaware County Wellness Center at Yeadon.
Located at 125 Chester Ave, Yeadon PA., the hours of operation are Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. COVID-19 testing will not be offered on Thursdays or Sundays.
Delaware County residents came out to use the walk-up and drive-thru options available for RT-PCR testing, the gold standard in COVID-19 testing, and Rapid Antigen testing. As operators of their own lab, Personic can offer PCR results via email in under 24 hours. All testing services are free to residents regardless of health insurance or immigration status.
COVID-19 testing appointments at the Delaware County Wellness Center at Yeadon are not required but are strongly suggested. Individuals can schedule a test.
COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are also available to Delaware County residents at the Wellness Center.
“COVID-19 cases are still of concern in our county and the demand for testing in Delaware County has grown with the surge in cases this spring,” said Health Department Deputy Director Lora Siegmann Werner. “Testing and vaccines are our most effective tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 and access to these tools-
especially for our most vulnerable populations- is of the utmost importance.”

The new site, which is being operated at no cost to the county, is part of a broader effort by county officials to address the health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic by providing convenient and free testing to communities of color and working families that are more likely to contract COVID-19, more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses that can be compounded by COVID-19, and who have less access to testing and other health services.

Individuals with questions about the site, appointments, or their test results should contact Personic Customer Service at (888) 349-6980. Individuals with general COVID-19 questions can Individuals with general COVID-19 questions can contact the Delaware County Health Department Wellness Line at (484) 276- 2100.

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Delco County Health Department Holds Open House

County and local officials were on hand for an open house Friday at the newly-renovated Delaware County Wellness Center in Yeadon. It now serves as the main location for the new Delaware County Health Department.

The Delaware County Health Department (DCHD) was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to act in its official capacity as a health department on April 2. It is the first new county health department to open in Pennsylvania in the past 33 years, officials said.

Prior to this, Delaware County with 576,830 people was the largest county not to have its own health department in the state. During the COVID pandemic, it relied on neighboring Chester County to help with testing and vaccinations.

The new department is expected to cost some $10 million in its first year, with continuing costs of $8 to $10 million annually. While much of the expense will come from state and federal grants, county taxpayers will pick up about 30 percent of the tab. The county also signed a five-year lease on the 11,235-square-foot site, paying more than the requested rent. Over the course of the lease, the county will pay some $250,000 more than what the real estate company had sought.

Stephanie Reese, personal health administrator

The open house event coincided with a judge’s order to stop county health department inspections in various towns and boroughs that had sued the county, which the Delaware Valley Journal reported on exclusively.

Those municipalities–Springfield, Ridley, Upper Chichester, Aston, Tinicum, Darby Township, and Marple–contend that the health department would not be open and functioning by Jan. 1, 2022 and that those towns need certainty in planning their budgets.

“Municipalities have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers to efficiently manage their budgets and how they spend tax dollars,” said James Byrne, an attorney representing Springfield, Ridley, and Aston townships. In some towns, switching from local to county health inspections will drive the costs up 500 percent.

Melissa Lyon, the health department director, called the ruling “unfortunate,” but said county health inspectors will continue going out to communities that are not part of the lawsuit.

The county issued this statement, “Yesterday, Judge Angelos issued a preliminary injunction against the County conducting environmental health inspections or licensing certain types of activities (including food establishments) in the seven townships which brought suit, pending a final hearing on May 25.

“While this is unfortunate, the Health Department will continue to fully serve all other portions of the county and respond to specific inquiries from residents of all townships. The county looks forward to the completion of the legal hearing and the judge’s ruling on the merits.”

Marie Carbonara, director of environmental health, called her department “a resource” for the municipalities and various businesses that are required to be inspected.

“I’m so proud of my team,” said Carbonara, who had previously served as health officer for Radnor. The Delaware Valley Journal reported on one health inspector who was a former researcher at the Drexel University’s Urban Sexuality Lab.

Meanwhile, inside the renovated Wellness Center, there are specialized pediatric and bariatric examination rooms and an exam room for tuberculosis patients with negative air pressure, said Stephanie Reese, a nurse, and personal health administrator.

Another room is filled with large refrigerators and a freezer to hold the health department’s stock of vaccines. There is a multimedia room that serves as a training center and a backup to the county 911 Center in Media, said Patrick Farley, a public health nurse.

“Since April 2, we have responded to 400 cases of communicable diseases,” said Reese. They have also been vaccinating people, including children from Ukraine and other children who need to catch up on their vaccinations to enter public schools.

Marie Dore, community health planner

The site also includes a pharmacy area where medicines will be dispensed to patients at no charge, said, Reese, and another room for blood draws.

“We’re super excited about the work,” she said. “It’s a collective effort to get these tasks accomplished.”

Vaccine clinics are still operating out of Chester County, but they hope to be in both counties by the first week of May.

“We’re integrating our COVID effort into the clinics, as well,” Reese said.


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New Delco Health Inspector Was Researcher at Urban Sexuality Lab

Pleasurable, carnal, queer…and fine cuisine?

A health inspector hired by Delaware County’s newly-opened health department to drop in on restaurants and other public spaces recently worked at the Urban Sexuality Lab at Drexel University, the Delaware Valley Journal has learned.

The Urban Sexuality Lab, or USL, “studies pleasurable, carnal, + queer cities, places, and spaces,” according to its Twitter page.

In a recent memo, USL director Jay Orne Ph.D. wrote, “Our lab studies carnality, bloody pleasure, heartfelt pain, the nebulous logic of our bodies past and future.”

Other Sexuality Lab research topics include: “Selling pleasure, danger: A typology of sex shops along the sex-positivity spectrum; Social distancing impacts HIV among men who have sex with men; the Philadelphia Gayborhoood; Health effects of police encounters on people of color.”

Zachary Babel

Zachary Babel, a former USL employee, presented a paper at a recent Sociologists for Trans Justice event, a far cry from the duties required for his new county position. That involves going to local small businesses to “conduct routine/required inspections and/or audits to ensure compliance of existing local and state public health and environmental codes, regulations, and policies,” according to the county’s website.

County health inspectors, whose starting salaries are $55,000 a year, visit restaurants and other businesses and certify their cleanliness and ensure they meet safety standards.  The county charges businesses fees for the required inspections.

When reached by phone, Babel confirmed he had worked at the Urban Sexuality Lab while working on his master’s degree in public health but declined to speak further.

Delaware County spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky had no comment on Babel’s hiring or work for the Sexuality Lab when contacted by DVJournal. All five members of the county council also declined to comment.

The county’s takeover of health inspections from local municipal governments is already a controversial topic. Based on the newly-released rate schedule for inspection services, some Delaware County businesses could see their inspection costs double or triple. And there is no indication the county has nearly the staff it needs to replace the current inspectors.

“Unfortunately, it seems the bigger the department, the bigger the fee,” said Brian Razzi, Borough Manager of Glenolden. “The boroughs tried to keep the fees as low as possible, to avoid putting a financial burden on local businesses.

“But now, for example, the small 3rd Street Deli in Colwyn will go from paying a $50 annual inspection fee to a minimum of $266. The small Mexican grocery on Springfield Road in Clifton Heights will go from a $75 local fee to $266 under the county.”

Delaware County Council Chair Dr. Monica Taylor has argued that transitioning food establishment inspections to the county will improve outcomes and community health goals. “In addition to directly addressing the public health needs of Delaware County residents, inspections will be conducted more uniformly, rather than the varying approaches of the different municipalities,” Taylor wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, questions about the qualifications of a former Sexuality Lab employee inspecting the heat lamps and food prep surfaces of local Delco restaurants remain.

“The Urban Sexuality Lab is breaking norms in the world of academic research, providing community for queer and ally student researchers, and advancing critical scholarship to support LGBTQ+ communities broadly,” Orne wrote.


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New County Health Inspectors Will Add to Taxpayer, Business Costs

Delaware County should allow municipalities to keep their health inspectors. That was the message from two Republicans running for Delaware County Council–Joe Lombardo and Frank Agovino–who held a press conference Monday at J.D. McGillicuddy’s in Havertown with other small business owners.

County officials had announced the county government would take over the health inspections of restaurants and stores from the 49 municipalities and make those inspections a function of the new county health department, which is slated to open in January 2022.

Lombardo, who is also the Clifton Heights mayor, said the proposal for the new health department to take over the function is a “power grab” by Delaware County that would have “catastrophic effects on our bar and restaurant owners.”

It is “something that sounds good on paper but in practice, will not work,” said Lombardo. “And will only make the situation worse.”

It makes more sense to allow municipalities to continue doing the inspections because it keeps bureaucracy to a minimum and provides a swifter turnaround time to business owners trying to open or have something approved, like a catering job, he said. The county, in its proposed regulations, gives itself 30 days to issue a permit, Lombardo noted.

“Why they’re trying to do this is nothing other than to grab the fee,” he said.

Meanwhile, the county will permit the municipalities to have their local inspectors do other tasks, such as checking restaurant grease traps, he said. But the inspectors are paid through those fees the county would take, so that will be more money for each municipality (and local taxpayers) to expend for the inspections without being allowed to charge a fee.

“It hurts the business owner and hurts the community,” said Lombardo. “For me, it’s taking away something we do for our community, for our businesses in our community.” People will no longer be able to call the borough with a problem and get it fixed quickly.

“It’s handcuffing the elected officials in the local municipalities,” said Lombardo.

Agovino said the business owners don’t dispute having a county health department deal with issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic. But they are against the county taking these inspections from the towns.

Lombardo said he sat in on a Zoom conference on the topic with county Councilwoman Monica Taylor. “I don’t think they even know what all they’re going to be doing.”

While the county planned to hire 80 people by January and start the inspections, since then the municipalities have been notified they will not be ready by then.

“You can’t find help,” said Lombardo. “How they thought they were going to hire 80 people by January 1 is beyond me.”

“I don’t know what the rush is,” said Tom Thornton, owner of McGillicuddy’s. “Maybe it’s a good idea in theory for down the road, but do I think it should be implemented by Jan. 1? It doesn’t sound like it at all. As Mr. Lombardo alluded to, it’s just going to create more tax dollars for Haverford Township, if they are not going to be able to charge the fees they charge every year, which vary by the size of your building. Who’s going to pay these people?  The county is just looking for a money grab. At whose expense. At some point, somebody is going to have to pay for the local municipalities for them to pay their employees. So now is that going to fall on the business owners or the taxpayers? Either way, it stinks. It’s  no good for anyone.”

Lombardo added, “We got beat up with the reassessment this year. We’re going to get beat up with this. There’s only so much people can take. People are on fixed incomes. There was an article that came out last week that heating oil and natural gas is going to be up 30 to 50 percent this year in the winter. How much can people take?”

A.J.  Loustau, the owner of Centrella’s Deli, said he was curious to know where the plan is coming from.

“I have a great relationship with the local health department,” he said. “We just went through a remodel. I was on the phone with them often just asking questions about how things need to be set up…they were fantastic. They always have been. I’ve never had an issue…If it ain’t broke why fix it?”

Conor Quinn owner of Kettle, a café, said he agrees with the others.

“Who are you going to call?” Quinn, who is also a Haverford Township commissioner, said that when people call him he will have to refer them to the county instead of handling a problem locally.  “That’s not fair to them.”

Thornton said he goes through Manayunk to a restaurant supply store and noticed during the pandemic that many restaurants there had set up tables for outdoor dining. He brought that idea back and was able to get local approval quickly to help his restaurant stay in business.

“It took one phone call from me to Conor,” said Thornton. “I went to the Board of Commissioners.  If we didn’t have that outdoor dining these doors would be closed and I wouldn’t be standing here today. Things like that, where I needed action sooner than 30 days and it was turned around within 30 days.”

Agovino said the county plans to use federal COVID reimbursement funds to pay for this health inspector program through 2024, but “that’s always a dangerous place when you have one-time money and you’re using it for something that is going to be reoccurring…At the end of the day, it’s going to affect small businesses and taxpayers.”

However, Adrienne Marofsky, a spokeswoman for the county, said the county health department must include an inspection program under state law.

“The state requires the county to take over local inspections under Act 315 in order to be an accredited Health Department,” she said. “Our fees are less than those charged in neighboring counties.”

Meanwhile, the new Health Department is slated to cost $10 million its first year, according to a consultant’s report.