On Wednesday afternoon, the Knox County Board of Health held their quarterly meeting virtually.

Led by Dr. Jack Gotcher, participants in the meeting included both board members as well as members of the Knox County Health Department. The one major focus of this meeting was to review the newest budget and decide on its approval.

The members of the board talked about approval of the operating budget for fiscal year 2021, inviting clarifying questions. One question discussed was regarding change in the social services sector of the budget, to which it was clarified that the people covered by social services have been moved to another sector of the Health Department.

The budget for 2021 also included increases in the budget for dental services, emergency medical services, administration, pharmacy, in-school health, vector control, vital records and women’s health services.

For example, the increase in the budget for the pharmacy section was for an increase in supplies and materials.

Other changes in the budget include decreases in the budget for social services, food and restaurant inspection, community health, primary care, groundwater services, disease surveillance and workforce development and planning.

The budget for two clinics, the West Clinic and the Teague Clinic, did experience significant decreases in the 2021 budget. This decrease for the clinics was due to a decrease in benefits and supplies in the West Clinic and a decrease in supplies in the Teague Clinic.

After going over each section, the board voted and approved the budget for fiscal year 2021.

Although the meeting was focused around the budget for next year, the current pandemic was part of the discussion as well, as questions were asked concerning the role of the health department in considering the impacts of COVID-19 on the budget.

For instance, the role of the University of Tennessee was discussed as Knox County Health Department members, such as Deputy Senior Director of Operations Mark Miller, wondered about the possibility of interns in the fall as a response to the pandemic.

“We have reached out to the university as well for the possibility of student interns in the fall,” Miller said.

In addition, the Knox County Board of Health expressed an optimistic view on the future of the health department in relation to COVID-19, while also emphasizing the importance of being cautious and prepared for the fall and future meetings.

“My gut feeling is we have a long road ahead of us … so I really appreciate everybody’s participation in helping the budget and also keeping all these lines of communication open,” Gotcher said.

The next scheduled quarterly meeting will be on July 15, which the members of the Knox County Board of Health hope will be held in-person.

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