Health department wins state award for creative drill

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic
Betty McNaught, left, RN emergency services director with the Henry and Stark County Health Department and Gail Ripka, Health Department administrator, display the Illinois Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director's Creative Drill/Exercise Award that McNaught received at the Illinois Emergency Preparedness Summit held recently in Oak Brook.

    Henry and Stark County Health Departments are pleased to announce that Betty McNaught, RN, department emergency services director, was recently awarded the Illinois Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director's Creative Drill/Exercise Award.             

    McNaught received this honor at the Illinois Emergency Preparedness Summit held recently in Oak Brook.

  On June 4, 2009, the Henry and Stark County Health Departments, as well as other members of the Peoria Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) Region staged the "Prairie Plague," a full-scale antibiotic dispensing exercise in Kewanee.  This exercise was developed and implemented by leaders in public health preparedness in Peoria, Marshall, Tazewell, Woodford, Stark, and Henry, with assistance from LaSalle County.

    Gail Ripka, department administrator notes, "As the largest full-scale public health exercise ever to be conducted in the region, the group dedicated nearly a full year of planning for the event.  This exercise showcased the importance of public health in emergency response and provided valuable lessons learned to improve the quality of planning and response efforts."

    "This event had a significant impact on the residents of the community, building awareness of public health's role in mass dispensing,” said McNaught.  “A large number of residents volunteered to serve as ‘victims,’ increasing the realism of the event."

    As to the award, McNaught states, "I am truly humbled in receiving this honor.  However, I accept the award for the entire staff of the Henry and Stark County Health Departments, who worked long and diligently as the lead agency in this important regional dispensing drill.  I also thank all of our local community partners, without whose assistance we could not have conducted this exercise."

    For more information on the department's emergency preparedness program and services, call the department at (309) 852-0197 or visit their Web site at www.henrystarkhealth.com.