Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) strives to strengthen our communities by advancing the health, safety, and opportunity of all residents. To ensure that we are achieving our goals as an agency and meeting our community's needs, the State of North Carolina has a rigorous, evidence based accreditation process for local health departments. Every four years, the BCHHS Department of Health submits evidence on nearly 150 quality benchmarks and activities demonstrating that our agency remains a credible and reliable place for our residents to seek services and support. The Accreditation process is based on the Ten Essential Functions of Public Health.
“Accreditation is an essential part of assuring that we are providing quality services within our facility and in the community,” says Kim Ownbey, Public Health Nurse and Accreditation Expert. “The process also helps identify ways departments can further improve their delivery, programming, and policies to better meet the needs of our local communities. I feel lucky to work for an agency that embraces opportunities to improve and routinely goes above and beyond.”
The accreditation process is an ongoing process that never stops. Our Quality Assurance staff continually track data and upload evidence to our accreditation dashboard which is reviewed by the State every 4 years. Once all of our data has been entered it is reviewed by a team of peer volunteers before moving to step number two- the site visit.
The site visit, which occurred in October, is a two day process during which a team of multidisciplinary peer volunteers familiarize themselves with the procedures of the department and facilitate staff and community partner interviews. The information they gather during the site visit is then presented to the North Carolina Local Health Department Accreditation (NCLHDA) Board which ultimately decides whether the respective Health Department has achieved accreditation.
On November 18th, the NCLHDA Board awarded BCHHS Department of Health Re-Accreditation with Honors. BCHHS Department of Health met all 147 benchmarks fully. Public Health Director Stacie Saunders was present to accept the achievement. “Achieving Re-Accreditation with Honors is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our BCHHS Public Health professionals, all while responding to the many demands of the pandemic,” said Saunders. “In particular, our Accreditation team, led by Kim Ownbey, has incredibly guided and supported this health department through the process.”
While the BCHHS Department of Health can take a collective sigh of relief with the approval of their accreditation, the Quality Assurance (QA) team is already working to implement the strategies for improvement identified by the site visitors. “We are so grateful for the accreditation process,” says Amanda Ervin, Buncombe County Health and Human Services QA Manager. “It gives us a chance to evaluate the way we do business and highlights the areas in which we could have a larger impact on the health and safety of our residents.”
Current projects for the QA staff include improving staff training strategy, personnel documentation, multiple program policy updates, and moving the team to a more central location.
Congratulations to the BCHHS Department of Health on Re-Accreditation with Honors. Special shout out to Public Health Nurse Kim Ownbey for continually supporting the accreditation process and organizing the mountains of data that were essential to our passing.