The Laurel County Health Department opened July 1, 1931 with staff doctor G.S. Brock, M.D., as director; Caleb Gross, sanitarian; Luvenia Smith; nurse. The office was located on the second floor of the Poynter Building at Fifth and Main.
The staff started with visiting schools for examination of students and performing immunizations for typhoid, smallpox, and diphtheria.
The health department also worked as a liaison between patients and the crippled children commission. They also visited patients with tuberculosis to try to prevent infection to others, as well as, facilitated prenatal clinics and made presentations to local clubs, PTA’s, etc.
The staff worked with a home demonstration agent in various programs. They held a May Day health program; provided venereal disease clinics until new medicines took patients to Louisville, and also held well baby clinics.
The health department held immunization clinics at local county schools. While at the schools, the nurse also performed well child exams. Follow up visits were done regarding defects found in school exams.
In 1939, the health department moved from the Poynter Building to 310 North Main Street in a small building in front of the Christian Church. At this time there was a part time health officer, Dr. John D. Fouts, one full time nurse, Mrs. Luvenia Smith Crittendon, one full time sanitarian, Mr. Vernon Yandell, one full time clerk, Mrs. Isabel Yandell. In 1942, Mrs. Ruth P. Gaines was hired as a full time clerk. To operate the health department, money was donated by Laurel County Board of Education, the Fiscal Court, and London City Council. At a later date, East Bernstadt Board of Education donated funds.
In 1950, Mrs. Ruth P. Gaines became the director of the Laurel County Health Department and several part time people were coming in to assist with different programs. The staff included: a venereal disease investigator, plumbing inspector, and a health professional that utilized a portable type machine to do x-ray clinics.
A prenatal program was held once a month and immunization clinic was held every Wednesday. Venereal disease clinics were held on Monday of each week. Those patients were treated in the health department, but patients with syphilis were sent to Louisville for rapid treatment.
In 1951, a full time sanitarian (environmentalist) named George Baldwin was hired. In 1953, money was obtained from the Hill Burton bill and Laurel County Fiscal Court to build a new facility at 310 West Third Street. By this time the staff included a full time health officer, sanitarian, administrator, and two nurses.
As time went on several programs were added such as the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, a prenatal program, an immunization program, medical card screening, family planning clinic, tuberculosis clinic, and treatment for tb patients and chest x-rays.
On November 30, 2002 Mrs. Ruth P. Gaines retired after giving sixty years plus to public health and the community.
Mrs. Gaines retired leaving a big set of shoes to fill by Mr. Mark Hensley, who is the current Public Health Director of Laurel County Health Department.
In the mid-2000’s, public health continued to grow and the need for a new facility arose again. Funding was secured and the Laurel County Health Department opened its current facility at 525 Whitley Street in February of 2007.
Laurel County has seen a lot of changes in public health and is still continuing to grow, in terms of its focus toward the health of its citizens. The Laurel County Health Department will continue to work to meet those needs in the years to come.