Clifton Health Department Accreditation - Recognizing Overall Excellence

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If you’ve ever gotten a flu shot at City Hall, participated in a Recreation Department event, or gotten a dog license for Fido, you’ve used the services of the Clifton Health Department. Clifton's Department of Human Services was created in 1996 and includes the Health, Recreation, and Welfare departments, as well as the many Senior Citizen Programs (assistance with forms, nutrition help, and other social events) . The focus of the department is, of course, on health, safety, and community education with an emphasis on disease and accident prevention, quality of life issues, and community preparation.

Some responsibilities include:
* Administering vaccinations for flu and Covid, as well as required immunizations for children who are uninsured or on Medicaid A.
* Offering various screenings throughout the year, including those for stroke, vein, vision, dental, certain cancers, and memory assessment, among others.
* Well-baby clinics for uninsured children up to age 5.

All health-related screening information is disseminated on the website and advertised in various places for all Clifton and Little Fall residents. These are just a few of the many screenings offered; a comprehensive list is on the department's website.

The Health Department also conducts restaurant inspections and investigations and advises food workers on safety protocols. Other areas covered include environmental inspections, providing information on a number of environmental concerns such as lead, radon, asbestos, and other potential chemical and physical hazards. In the event of a chemical spill, or an accident involving potential toxins, the Health Department will investigate and provide resources as necessary.

The Health Department is also responsible for dog licensing and runs rabies vaccination clinics twice a year, in May and November. Animal Control is the division you’ll want to call if your pet gets lost, or if you find a stray animal (domestic or wild) in need of help. You can read more about the importance of tagging or microchipping your pet HERE.

If your child has ever come home to tell you about a program he or she learned about in school (smoking and drug awareness, bullying, peer mentoring), chances are that the Health Department has been involved with its implementation. All the flyers you see at City Hall are developed by the Department to give residents the information and tools they need to make informed decisions regarding health, safety, longevity, and quality of life.

The Clifton Times recently met with three members of the Clifton Health Department, John Biegel, Jennifer Kidd, and Danielle Jones, to discuss the process of their national accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Clifton is one of only six cities in the state, and the only one in Passaic County, to earn such an important and impressive honor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) public health accreditation serves to benefit the community by strengthening the health department’s relationship with other community partners, identifying health priorities via the use of surveys and meetings, and providing access to other programs that improve the way the Department provides services.

Biegel, Clifton's Health Officer, said that the mechanisms for accreditation were initiated in 2015 and that it is not a simple process; there were thousands of pages of documentation required for review and the Covid pandemic delayed the programs on both ends. “Once the pandemic hit, we were too busy trying to stay current with guidelines. This was uncharted territory and we all learned and did what needed to be done. You can’t predict the next crisis but you can plan so that when it hits, we can be better prepared,” he said.

Kidd laughed when asked how documents were submitted saying, “We did everything electronically, so lots of trees were saved by not using thousands of sheets of paper.” There were hundreds of examples of documents that needed PHAB review and each time a form was returned for correction, it had to be changed to the correct format and then returned for additional review. Virtually every staff member participated early on before the pandemic, assembling necessary materials; in 2020, when everything was put on hold for Covid, the accreditation process was put on hold but not forgotten. As the critical needs of the pandemic started to lessen, the department again ramped up on preparing the documentation needed. Not only did paperwork have to be submitted, returned for corrections, and then resubmitted, but City officials and community partners of the Health Department had to complete assessments and interviews. The paperwork was finally completed in September 2022 and meetings, both virtual and in-person, were scheduled and the waiting began; notification would be done electronically.

Kidd said she was waiting in line for coffee with her daughter early on Election Day in 2023 when she looked at her phone to find an email from the PHAB that started with “Congratulations!” and realized they’d gotten the preliminary approval for accreditation. She immediately called John Biegel to tell him the news, and when she went to work the next day, she shared the happy update with her cheering coworkers. “It was a group effort; every one of us did their part,” said Kidd, who praised Danielle Jones for her initiative, drive, and dedication, especially during Covid. All three members interviewed praised the accreditation as a group effort involving “blood, sweat, and tears” and hours upon hours of hard work “as a team.” Kidd added that the collaboration was so successful in part because of Biegel’s leadership skills; Biegel demurred and said, “We all love what we do and this was totally a team effort.” He mentioned that the city’s support was total and constant, and that the department is continually looking for ways to better improve how they serve the community. To this end, they have monthly collaboration meetings with their community partners to discuss issues, solutions, and future plans.

Biegel noted that “Pretty soon, we’re going to have to go through the process to maintain, and then become re-accredited." Now would be a great time for anyone who has not yet completed the Community Health Assessment Survey to take a few minutes to help the Health Department fulfill one of its accreditation requirements and satisfy its mission to create a healthier, stronger Clifton.



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