Sewage 2021 permits graph

Idaho County had 199 sewage (septic) permits issued in 2021, the highest of any county in district 2.

A new anti-vaping program targeting elementary school students will be available in FY 2023.

“We’ve got to catch them before they reach junior high school and get peer pressure,” explained Carol Moehrle, District director for public health in region 2. (The North Central Idaho district includes Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties.) Moehrle has served as district 2 director since 1991.

“It’s been great, great staff, great board of health,” she said. “Everyone is dedicated to what we can do with prevention.”

Public health has long used Idaho Millennium Funds for tobacco cessation programs. These are funds from tobacco companies resulting from a class-action lawsuit. The money is used to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco use. Moehrle said that thanks to the efforts of district 5 state representative Caroline Troy, the state legislature approved one year of funding for the anti-vaping program. Moehrle explained this is an evidence-based program so they can measure the results. She also noted district 2 staff will offer this program to schools that request it.

A dental program for school children is coming back in FY 2023 after ceasing for several years during COVID. Schools can request a dental hygienist employed by the health district to provide preventative screening for students, with permission from parents.

“The schools have been so appreciative,” Moehrle said, noting in past years that Idaho and Lewis County schools have extensively used the program.

The health district inspects public swimming pools, public water supply systems, sewage (septic) permits and solid waste facilities in each county. Idaho County has had the greatest number of sewage permits for district 2 counties for the past three years (2019-2021), according to data provided by Moehrle.

New housing construction is happening in all five counties. Idaho County’s higher number of sewage permits indicates more individual house construction outside cities. In Latah and Nez Perce counties, much of the new housing is in subdivisions near cities with developed sewage systems and fewer new houses on individual properties.

The FY 2023 (for the year beginning July 1) district 2 budget approved following a public hearing on May 26 reflects a change to how the public health districts are funded. The approved 2023 is $6,663,673.

The bulk of the money (65%) consists of pass-through federal funds distributed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Moehrle explained this has always been the biggest source of income for the public health district.

The state general fund has historically contributed approximately $7 million per year to public health districts, according to Moehrle. Following the passage of HB 316 by the state legislature in 2021 the state will no longer fund public health districts from the general fund beginning with the FY 2023 budget.

“It has always been a shared responsibility between the state and counties to fund local public health,” Moehrle said.

State funding for the health districts will be replaced by county funding. This will come from a reduction in the county’s responsibility for medically indigent expenses according to the language in HB 316. Moehrle explained the state legislature intended the shift in funding to be a wash in funding for the counties over time.

Idaho’s county’s contribution to public health district funding has increased from $129,379 in FY 2021 to $279,855 in FY 2023. Lewis County’s has increased from $29,649 to $58,576 in the same time frame.

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