Construction of the new Letcher County Health Department is expected to begin soon, says the department’s director, Lana Mullins.
Mullins said the building site on East Main Street has been prepared, and that bids for construction are being advertised this week and will be opened December 13.
The $4.5 million project will be located on the site of the former Suburban Motel, which was demolished in July.
The 32,000-square-foot center will have three stories. The first floor will serve as the clinic, while the second floor will house administration and the third floor will be used for storage.
Mullins said the new building will have much more space and offer much more privacy than the current health department building, which consists of 5,700 square feet and is located behind the Letcher County Courthouse.
Mullins said the new building will contain a large classroom that will enable the health department to offer breastfeeding classes, diabetes support groups, nutritious cooking classes and, if the funding becomes available, smoking cessation classes.
The new center will also have a physical fitness room where staff members can exercise during breaks and after work.
Other new features that are planned include a larger laboratory and a lactation room where mothers can breastfeed while waiting for services provided by the health department.
Mullins said new building’s examination rooms will also be equipped in advance to handle the department’s switch from manual to electronic medical records, which is expected to occur during the next two years.
The health department performs preventative health checks, cancer screenings, pap smears, mammograms, immunizations, and dental varnishing. Family planning, diabetes and hypertension are also areas the health department addresses. The health department also provides environmental services to local restaurants and hotels.
Mullins said many people don’t realize that the health department pays for follow-up mammograms, pap smears and biopsies after an abnormality is found. She said the health department also can help pay for doctor visits if a child has an abnormality and has no insurance.
The health department participates in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Health Access Nurturing Development Service (HANDS) programs. WIC provides nutritional help and health care referrals for mothers and their young children. HANDS provides firsttime mothers and fathers with information and resources about a baby’s development during his or her first year.
Six school nurses provided by the health department are located in the Letcher County public schools.