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Kent County Health Update

February 24, 2022

Health Department Names Two Deputy Health Officers

Administrative Health Officer Dr. Adam London has named two new Deputy Health Officers to serve the Kent County Health Department (KCHD). While they are new to these respective roles, neither of them is new to the department. Gail Brink, who served as Finance Director, and Dr. Karla Black, former Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, have been named to serve in the roles.

Gail’s role will focus on internal operations including public health finance and contracting work. She will also have oversight of the division directors of community clinics, community wellness, and lead staff in IT and finance. Gail has served as the department’s Finance Director since 2002 and earned her B.S. in Accountancy from Calvin College.

Karla's new role will primarily focus on external partnerships and public health science. The division directors of the animal shelter, community health strategy, communicable disease epidemiology, emergency preparedness, environmental health report to Karla. Dr. Black joined KCHD as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator in 2012 and has also been a leader in the areas of workforce development and quality improvement. Dr. Black attained B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Biology from the University of Illinois and holds a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in molecular virology from Purdue University.

Both positions have key responsibilities related to a variety of initiatives including strategic planning, human resources, health equity, quality improvement, communications, and more.

Gail Brink

Karla Black

WIC Temporarily Expands Formula Options

For a limited time, you now have more options for powder formulas at the store when using your WIC benefits. Click here for more information and available formulas. If you are experiencing transaction issues of these alternative formulas at any WIC vendors, please report them to our State Vendor Helpline (800-942-1636, option 2) and ask to speak with vendor staff.

Vaccine Clinics Available

Fortunately, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant continues to recede and daily case numbers are approaching levels we have not seen since late summer. Due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 virus, we do not know when the next variant may emerge, and cases will spike again. Now is the ideal time for those who have not been vaccinated or have not completed their vaccine series to take advantage of several vaccine clinics hosted by the KCHD and its community partners.

For the past year, the KCHD has convened a group of representatives from health care systems and community organizations to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to increase availability to those who experience barriers to access. Organizations such as the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI) and the Black Impact Collaborative (BIC) have been key players in this effort. By building relationships with vaccine providers, including KCHD, University of Michigan Health West, Cherry Health, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Black Nurses Association, these organizations have successfully established vaccine clinics in trusted neighborhood locations to make it easier for the populations they serve to get vaccinated. The upcoming vaccine clinics hosted by KCHD and these partner organizations are listed below and can also be found at

Kent County Health Department

Appointments available daily at the following clinics by calling 616-632-7200

  • Fuller Clinic (700 Fuller Ave NE)
  • Sheldon Clinic (121 Franklin SE)
  • South Clinic (4700 Kalamazoo Ave)

Hispanic Center of Western Michigan (1204 Grandville Ave SW, 742-0200)

  • Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (March 9, March 16, and March 23)
  • Every Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (

  • Baxter Community Center (935 Baxter St SE) - March 15 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wyoming Public Library (3350 Michael Ave SW) - March 5 and March 19 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Black Impact Collaborative (

  • ICCF (400 Franklin SE) – March 4 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

We Are Changing E-Mail Platforms

We are implementing a new email subscription service to make it easier for you to receive our updates. Please watch for a "welcome" email next week to update your information and preference Also, please add to your safe senders' list to ensure you are receiving all our mail communications.

Kent County Opioid Task Force

The KCHD convenes the Kent County Opioid Task Force (KCOTF), which is a diverse group of stakeholders working to mitigate the opioid epidemic locally. The group comprises representatives from health systems, academia, pharmacies, treatment providers, recovery programs, community mental health, law enforcement, non-profit community organizations, and more. The mission of the KCOTF is to “save lives now and collaborate to prevent future opioid and substance misuse for all,” with the vision to “create a community that is more resilient to the impact of opioid and substance misuse.”

The task force splits its work into three subcommittees to focus on various aspects of the opioid epidemic:

  1. Prevention: increasing education on substance use disorder and stigma reduction in Kent County for all ages;
  2. Intervention: increasing availability of resources for people who use drugs, including access to harm reduction resources such as the life-saving medication naloxone; and
  3. Treatment & Recovery: reducing barriers to accessing treatment in Kent County and identifying ways to help individuals in their recovery.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and with an understanding of members’ capacity limitations, the KCOTF has continued to meet virtually. The pandemic has impacted the opioid epidemic immensely, including increasing risk factors such as social isolation, stress, and disrupting access to treatment, but also forcing innovative approaches such as changing policies to increase access to telehealth and medications for opioid use disorder. During the 12-month period ending in April 2021, the United States experienced an increase in drug overdose deaths of 28.5% compared to the previous 12-month period. However, Kent County experienced a decrease of 15.3% during this same period. While this does not account for the full picture of the consequences of the opioid epidemic, this is an important metric and one that speaks to the many community resources available in Kent County.

As the KCOTF continues its work into 2022, we are seeking additional community participation. If you have lived experience or your work relates to the opioid epidemic, we would love to have you join our meetings, hear what we’ve been up to, and share your perspective. Many of our members only have the capacity to attend meetings or listen to recordings, and that’s okay! The sharing of information within our community is also worthwhile. If you have questions about the KCOTF or would like to receive meeting invites, please contact Rachel Jantz.

Ready by Five Program Update

The Environmental Health Division of the KCHD was excited to be awarded continued funding for its work in lead poisoning prevention. The funding comes from First Steps Kent through the Ready By Five (RB5) Early Childhood Millage. The KCHD was previously awarded funds for the 2020-2021 calendar years, and this new award will continue to build on the foundation KCHD has established through 2023.

The RB5 lead prevention program focuses on educating clients on the risks of lead poisoning as well as identifying potential lead hazards in homes throughout Kent County. The funding supports three sanitarians, one health educator, and one clerk.

This service is available to any family residing in Kent County with a child five years or younger or expecting mothers. There are two levels of service that can be performed by the sanitarians. 

  1. The first is the Home Health Screening (HHS) which is an in-home assessment performed by state-certified lead sanitarians. This assessment is a non-invasive visual assessment of the home that looks for health hazards such as asthma triggers, safety concerns, as well as potential lead hazards. 
  2. From this visit, the sanitarians assist clients in connecting with resources in the community to address any issues identified. If potential lead hazards are identified, the sanitarians can provide a second more in-depth lead assessment of the home called a Lead Inspection/Risk Assessment (LIRA). The LIRA is a more in-depth surface-by-surface inspection of an entire home to identify the location of all lead-based hazards. From this assessment, a detailed report is generated to inform the client of the lead hazards and what needs to be abated/remediated throughout the home. Clients are then connected to any resources that are available to assist with the abatement/remediation work. In 2021 the RB5 team completed 73 HHS and 36 LIRA’s. 

This funding also supports a full-time public health educator who focuses on lead poisoning prevention. The Health Educator provides outreach and education at community events and has developed numerous guidance documents to provide clients with simple steps they can take to decrease the risks of lead poisoning. 

In addition to this funding and service, the Lead Action Team (LAT) is working to convene specialists to focus on ending lead poisoning in Kent County. The LAT consists of a steering committee with sub-committees encompassing environmental health, clinical, and social supports. In 2022, a community assessment will be produced to evaluate the current understanding of the dangers of lead and the resources that are available. The results of the community assessment will be used to plan for future education campaigns and how to address any identified educational and service gaps.

Introducing Kent County Smart Licenses

All dog license purchases will now come in the form of a new Smart License. Not only do these licenses come with an individual number like previous style licenses, but they also come with a QR code.

Anyone finding a lost dog can simply scan the back of the license and view the pet’s profile- 24/7, which includes the owner's contact information. This is a FREE service that comes with the purchase of the license and is one more tool for residents to be reunited with their pets in the event they go missing.

No smartphone? No problem! There are several ways to locate owner information. You can search the license number at to locate the pet’s profile and owner contact information, or call the toll-free number on the license. Also, license numbers are recorded in the KCAS license system and a shelter staff member can perform a quick search over the phone.

Dog licenses can be purchased online, at the shelter, or in person at one of the many participating partners around the county. Visit to learn more and purchase your license today!

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