By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Hill County Health Department is using this year's bioterrorism grant to provide more information to residents about health services in the county. A new Web site, already up and running, is a key part of this, county nurse Cindy Smith said.
The bioterrorism grants come from federal money but are administered by states through a program begun in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The states distribute the money to counties across the country based on population, Smith said.
This year Hill County has received $46,629 for the period of Oct. 1 to June 30, 2005. The money has been spent to hire two part-time staffers, one of whom manages the new Web site. Unlike other grants, the money can also be used for supplies.
"It gives us a lot of extra leeway to get equipment and build infrastructure," she said about the grant.
For a county health department with a budget the size of this one's - roughly $200,000 - the grants make a big difference.
Already there is more information available online than before. The old Web site contained a list of department contacts and some information on immunizations, and was not updated regularly.
"Our old one was very limited," bioterrorism coordinator Jennifer Brandon said. Brandon was hired with grant money, and is maintaining the Web site for the department.
The new Web site includes links to information about pertussis, or whooping cough, an infectious disease that causes coughing and is dangerous to infants. It has already infected two county residents. The site also contains information about flu shots, and is designed to be updated with similar, timely information, Brandon said.
The Web site has already been useful, she said. The Health Department directs people to the site when they have questions about immunizations.
The Web site will also have links to information about child care, school preparedness, grants and presentations by the Health Department and will include health information for individual communities in Hill County, Smith said.
The Web site is http://www.hillcountyhealth.com.