In the Spotlight

A Message from R. Battle Betts, Jr., MPA
Health Director of Albemarle Regional Health Services

2017 is an exciting year for ARHS – we are celebrating 75 years of public health service. Throughout 2017, we will honor our rich history with various events and educational opportunities, and most importantly, thank you and the many employees who have served this community making ARHS what it is today.

The public health department in Pasquotank County was established on July 1, 1942, as a result of the placement of federal training and defense facilities in northeastern North Carolina. A requirement of this government provision was the availability of preventive health services. Dr. Daniel C. Hackett, a United States Public Health Service representative, was the first health officer. The Perquimans County Health Department which was also established in 1942, became a part of the Pasquotank County Health Department in 1943. Camden County joined in 1943 as well. In 1949, Chowan County Health Department, which had been a component of the Bertie County Health Department since 1937, joined. These four health departments were known as the PPCC District Health Department.

The original building, funded by the Federal Works Agency, is located on the corner of Harney and Cedar Streets in Elizabeth City. Services in the early years consisted of communicable disease programs including quarantine, immunization, and follow-up. In 1942, Venereal Disease clinics were held. In 1945, the State Board of Health and the United States Public Health Service assigned a full-time trained Venereal Disease investigator to Pasquotank County. Tuberculosis control, which included the surveillance of all tuberculosis cases and x-ray program, began in 1943. In 1949, mass chest x-ray clinics were offered free of charge through mobile units to persons 15 years of age and older.

Laboratory services began in 1949, including milk analysis for a total of eleven northeastern counties, as well as other lab services - serology, gonorrhea smears, throat cultures, urine and fecal tests. In the early days, physicians and midwives served the counties in child health and maternity programming. By 1950, there were 33 midwives registered for supervision by public health nurses.

Mental health services were organized in 1958, under the direction of the local health director. Revitalization of this effort was made, however due to lack of funding and personnel, the program ended within two years.

Environmental Health Services, formerly known as the Sanitation program, continued to provide educational programming, food handlers' schools, and public information to the communities. Rat poison provision and rabies control were the responsibilities of the local health department. Restaurant inspections were accomplished by the Environmental Health Specialists, as well as proper salvage disposal and assurance of sewer water disposal. In 1950, 56 privies and 57 septic tanks were approved to be installed.

With the assistance of the federal government, the Migrant Program began in 1963. Through the early years, public health services were plagued by lack of financial support. The community remained supportive of the local health department, as physicians volunteered their time to staff health department clinics.

In 1971, Howard B. Campbell, MPH, became the health director and remained for 30 years, rapidly developing personnel and services to meet community health needs. PPCC District Health Department became the administrative agency for the Developmental Evaluation Center (DEC) (later called Albemarle Rehabilitation Services) in 1974 and is currently known as the Children's Developmental Services Agency. The DEC assisted children from birth through age 21 who had developmental delays in a ten-county area. Throughout the years, DEC and ARS, focused on children birth through five years of age, and today serves children and families through early intervention, birth through three years of age, offering assistance in service coordination, evaluations, and service planning in concert with local providers.

Women's, Infants, and Children (WIC) program began in 1974. Early goals were focused on the management of anemia and other nutrition related disorders or illnesses. Also in 1974, the first Public Health Educator was employed at PPCC District Health Department, and provided patient and community outreach, in addition to staff education.

In 1967, the home health program was one of the earliest certified home health agencies in North Carolina. A multidisciplinary team of nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and home health aides provided a wide variety of services. In the PPCC district, home care roles were expanded to include private duty, chore services, and personal care services. Hospice services began in 1984 and was later awarded Hospice Medicare Certification in 1992.

Technology enhanced billing procedures, data collection, reporting, and communication in 1984. Statistical information, such as in-house data, was now readily available and desktop computers for staff were introduced for daily use.

To meet the transportation needs of the rural communities, the InterCounty Public Transportation Authority was established in 1978 and began with two buses. This effort began jointly with the County Department of Social Services.

Clinical services have greatly expanded. In 1985, the Albemarle High Risk Perinatal Clinic began providing highly skilled maternity services to pregnant women in the district. Family Planning and Women's Health Services continued to be afforded the communities as well as Child Service Coordination. Anonymous and confidential HIV testing was offered in 1985.

A wellness program, Working on Wellness (WOW), was introduced for all employees in 1990. Health screenings, follow-up, and education were provided. In 1990, smoking was banned inside the health department buildings as a health prevention and promotion measure.

Environmental Health Services included the disposal of solid waste enhanced through the landfill development and recycling sites.

Jerry L. Parks, MPH, became the Assistant Health Director in 1997 and later upon Howard Campbell's retirement, was named the Health Director in 2000.

In 1999, Currituck County Public Health Department merged public health services with PPCC District Health Department, resulting in a name change for the regional public health agency - Albemarle Regional Health Services.

2002 Brought the expansion of ARHS into Bertie County, while Gates County joined in 2004.

In 2016, Mr. Parks retired after over forty years in public health service. I feel privileged to follow Mr. Parks as your Health Director. As an employee of ARHS since 1994, I know the work we do every day in the Albemarle Region makes an impact on countless lives. I look forward to celebrating 75 years of quality Public Health service in the Albemarle region of care. Today, I join you as a dedicated employee of Albemarle Regional Health Services as we observe this milestone in history in service and commitment to our communities in disease prevention and in the pursuit of healthier environments through education.