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Oldham health department growing

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By Tracy Harris

The Oldham County Health Department is finishing construction on a 6,000-square-foot expansion that will allow for more programs and services to be offered at the department.

Many people don’t realize the department’s scope, said executive director Teresa Gamsky.

The department oversees all food inspections, communicable disease services, maternal and child health services and emergency preparedness.

“There’s the perception that we’re just a safety net — but that’s not true,” Gamsky said.

The department’s new extension will provide a multi-purpose room, a test kitchen and much-needed office space.

Gamsky said the multi-purpose room will allow the department to host a variety of programs that it currently can’t accommodate. 

The HANDS program, which is a voluntary home-visiting program for first time parents, provides a unique networking opportunity for new parents — but the department has no where for them to meet, Gamsky said.

The department also wants to expand smoking cessation classes, she said.

The test kitchen will provide room for cooking classes directed at high-risk health groups, like diabetics and those with heart problems.

Gamsky said the additional space will help the department tackle the county’s two biggest health issues: obesity and prescription drug abuse.

Chris Roty, president of Baptist Hospital Northeast, agrees that the department can make a big impact on the community.

“Diabetes education, obesity education and wellness programs are important in helping people learn how to stay well and out of the hospital, he said. “The Oldham County Health Department is one of Baptist Hospital Northeast’s community partners and we have a common goal in promoting wellness in Oldham County.”

Roty said the hospital applauds the health department’s efforts in expanding those programs.

Gamsky said the extension will have a backup generator and could be used as an emergency shelter. 

A new covered entrance could allow for drive-thru immunizations — many cities now offer flu shots that way.

While Gamsky is proud of the department’s growth, she’s even more proud of how the department’s board funded the extension.

When the county was in a rapid growth phase in the early 2000s, the board saved much of the increased revenue. 

Gamsky said board members have set aside money for an expansion for about eight years. 

The project will cost about $1.5 million dollars and should be complete by Nov. 30.

“The board has been good stewards of our money,” Gamsky said. “They didn’t want to borrow any of it.”