Monroe County Health Department has been serving the community since 1921. We have many strengths including a knowledgeable, motivated, and dedicated staff; strong partnerships, teamwork, and a variety of programs.
On July 1st, 1921 Ann Eichenberger of Lindsey was hired as the first Monroe “county nurse.” The county board, according to documented proceedings of November 20, 1920, provided her with a new Ford coupe (with an extra tire and license plates), set of scales, card index cabinet, and supplies. Her assignments included checking the sick and quarantining people in their homes if a communicable disease was detected or suspected. Most antibiotics and immunizations had not yet been discovered. The “county nurse” was also charged with identifying children with debilitating conditions and arranging for state-supported treatment. The Shepherd-Tower Act of 1921 provided grants to develop Maternal Child Health programs, creating a demand for public health.
Public health in Monroe County has evolved over the past century. What began as the sole “county nurse,” took on different names, including the Monroe County Public Health Nursing Service and the Monroe County Health Agency as programs and services were added.
In 1974, MCHD became the first licensed and Medicare-certified home care agency through the Home Care program, which provided skilled nursing care to county residents under the direction of their physicians. That program lasted for 35 years until it ended in 2009.
In 1979, Monroe County adopted the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which was a tri-county program between Monroe, Vernon and Juneau Counties. At the time, WIC staff traveled to multiple locations within each county to provide services. Today, each county has their own program.
Other programs that the department had over time included health check (a health assessment program for children on medical assistance), fluoride mouth rinses, scoliosis screenings, hearing conservation programs and vaccinations.
In 1993, the department received a national award from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to commend the county’s perinatal program, which was developed to improve the outcome of high risk pregnancies.
As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Department staff still have some of the same duties as Ms. Eichenberger, but also have new features and responsibilities as public health practice has modernized and expanded beyond solely nursing services.