Needle exchange, water woes, vaccination rates and more …

The Clallam County Board of Health met in Forks last week, and it is always an enlightening meeting.

Tanya MacNeil of West End Outreach Services was up first to update on what is happening at WEOS. She shared that people seem to be coming to Forks to have a crisis — the reason for which was not clearly apparent.

WEOS recently lost a substance abuse counselor. The search is on for a replacement, and cross training is going on with current staff as well as a partnership with Cedar Grove Counseling. WEOS has also been working with the local tribes.

MacNeil also shared that funding changes coming in 2020 offer a lot of unknowns for programs in the future.

WEOS has also begun a partnership with the school and now visit students on site. MacNeil said a huge issue in the community is the instability of available local housing.

Commissioner Bill Peach added that an increase in tourism and vacation rentals and the like are having a big impact on the housing shortage. Commissioner Mark Ozias shared that the Board of Health members will look to identify the gaps in services that occur after January 2020.

Next, Commissioner Peach shared the issue the residents of Bullman Beach are having with their water system. Peach said that seven of eight community water systems in the county are having compliance issues. There are 22 residences on the Bullman Beach system. After upgrading the system — and the upgrade was deemed to be not working properly — the residents are out of money and options.

Some alternatives looked at have been the PUD or Clallam County taking over the system so that a grant could be applied for, as only those entities are eligible to receive grants.

Bullman Beach resident Dora Burlingame said, “We are stuck. The Bullman Beach Community doesn’t know what to do.”

Peach suggested that water associations network with others to see what other options might be available, as the state Department of Health has continued to issue failure to comply notices and extension requests for the Bullman Beach system.

Peach said he will continue to work with the residents there and is assisting with a letter and other options perhaps with the Clallam County Opportunity Fund.

County health officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank updated on West End vaccination rates. Unthank said the West End is the shining star of the county, as Forks has a 93 percent vaccination rate and Clallam Bay is at 97 percent.

“It is very unlikely that we will see a case of measles in Forks,” she said.

Unthank was asked why she thought the vaccination rate was so high in this part of the county. She shared that after attending the recent Quillayute Valley Scholarship Auction she could sense the close community support for the youths, and thought that might be the reason.

Unthank also commented that flu is seeing a recent spike and there have been three deaths attributed to the disease. The county has also seen the first death in a healthy young person.

Unthank said that though the flu season runs October to March, citizens who have not yet gotten vaccinated can still do so.

The Secure Medicine Return Program has been in the works for some time but should be up and running in the next 90 days. The program offers kiosks and a mail-in option for residents to dispose of outdated and/or unwanted medications.

In Public Health Programs the Youth Suicide Prevention Program was updated, as well as the Youth Smoking Prevention Program and vape prevention. Smoking rates are higher in Clallam County than other areas of Washington state.

Andy Brastad, director of Clallam County Health and Human Services, shared information on the status of the needle exchange program in Forks. The program has been in operation for a few months seeing only three people taking advantage of the activity in the West End. The Port Angeles program usually sees about 35 West End residents.

Discussion followed regarding the lack of participation: Was it lack of knowledge, small-town anonymity issues, or the fact it was just once a month? Brastad said even with the lack of participation there was no plan to end the program at this time.

— Christi Baron, Editor