Ocean City Today

Jones takes over as Wor. County health officer

Salisbury native aims to serve needs of locals and retirees in leadership role
By Brian Gilliland | Jul 13, 2017
Photo by: Submitted photo Becky Jones

(July 14, 2017) With the start of the new fiscal year bringing renewed and recurring grant opportunities, as well as the need to prepare for hurricane season, then flu season and myriad other year-round responsibilities, new county Health Officer Becky Jones said she prizes one skill over the others as she takes the reigns of the department.

“Juggling. I think I’m good at juggling. You sort of have to be able to because multiple things can happen at once,” she said. “It’s all juggling — the knowns with the unknowns — to ensure nothing is missed, and you try to balance everything.”

Opioid abuse and addiction continue to take up considerable time and resources at the Worcester County Health Department, and that isn’t going to change any time soon, Jones said. She’s already attended two meetings with the opioid intervention team, itself a product of Gov. Larry Hogan’s March 1 state of emergency declaration concerning opioids.

The emergency declaration put County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster at the forefront of this fight, along with the health department, and he took over where the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had jurisdiction previously.

Jones, Webster, other county officials, existing and emerging committees, nonprofits and programs meet often to discuss the problem.

“It was Gov. Hogan’s vision that we not keep information in silos. We’re looking at the issues and seeing what we each bring to the table,” she said.

As more people turn to the shore to retire, Jones said the health department would need to ensure that population’s needs are being met.

“We’re trending toward an older population that is going to continue to grow until 2030, so we need to make sure we have the resources in place to serve them. It’s not just the born-here’s, there are lots of people who want to spend their retirement here,” Jones said.

Finding the gaps in services, and plugging them, are key points to serving that population.

“I think the calls for better in-home care, when a person gets to that point, are going to become increasingly important,” she said.

Jones said she believes people should remain in their homes as long as they possibly can.

“It certainly is an identified need. People want to spend their time in their homes,” she said.

Jones said her department is undergoing change in how the money is handled. Instead of providing continuing service for specified maladies, Jones said her department and others are moving toward a fee and reimbursement schedule. Simply, as long as a certain program meets specified requirements from the granting agency, the funding to provide those services is reimbursed.

But through these issues and challenges, Jones said she had access to what she considers the best resource: former Health Officer Debbie Goeller.

“When our schedules would permit, I would shadow her. Certainly, with her having 25 years of experience, I have tremendous shoes to fill,” Jones said. “Debbie has done a fantastic job, and I want to continue that tradition.”

During Jones’ time with the health department, she has headed several programs. Most recently, she was the nurse program manager for Adult Services and director of the Maryland Access Point for Worcester County. She previously served as the community health nurse supervisor.

Jones is a 1996 Salisbury University graduate, earning a bachelor’s in nursing, with a minor in psychology. The Salisbury native received her master’s in nursing leadership in 2008. Her areas of expertise include leadership and systems training, policy development, and program and financial planning and management.

She represents the health department on the Worcester County Commission on Aging board of directors. She is part of the care coordination team that earned the Worcester County Health Department national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board in 2014, making it one of the first two health departments to be accredited in Maryland, and the Team Innovation Award for 2016 from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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