top of page

Health Department Presents Model Practice Awards to the Legislature

(ITHACA, NY – July 17, 2019) – Tompkins County is one of 53 local health departments across the country to be recognized for innovative public health projects in response to critical local public health needs. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) awarded Tompkins County Health Department with two 2019 Model Practice Awards at the Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL last week. The two awards are for Ithaca College Public Health Initiatives and the SafeCare® Program.

Rachel Buckwalter, BSN, RN, Community Health Nurse and Nina Saeli, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator
Rachel Buckwalter, BSN, RN, Community Health Nurse and Nina Saeli, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator

On July 16, the Health Department presented at the regular meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature. Rachel Buckwalter, BSN, RN, Community Health Nurse and Nina Saeli, Public Health Preparedness Coordinator each provided a 5-minute description of their respective programs.

“We are honored to receive NACCHO’s Model Practice Award. The awards are evidence of our commitment to developing responsive and innovative public health programs that improve the health of local residents,” stated Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director, Tompkins County Health Department.

The Ithaca College Public Health Initiatives began in 2013, when the college and health department began working together to develop a public health response plan that utilizes trained student responders as a key resource during a mass prophylaxis event.  To test this plan, Ithaca College conducts an annual, full scale, mass vaccination exercise, providing the annual flu vaccine to between 500-900 students, faculty and staff. “The goal of these activities is to enable Ithaca College to independently respond to a public health emergency in order to mitigate loss of health and/or life to Ithaca College students, faculty and staff; thus making Ithaca College a critical public health resource to Tompkins County” stated Nina Saeli, Tompkins County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator. “Ithaca College Public Health Initiatives demonstrate the importance of collaborative, sustained efforts between county departments and institutions properly positioned and resource to support our community during any type of natural or manmade disaster”.

“Working with the local health department, the medical reserve corps, and the campus exercise committee has really been an enriching experience for the students in my community health class.  Being a part of the planning and management of the exercise on campus allows them to extrapolate to larger disasters nationally and globally.” said Mary Bentley, Associate Professor, Ithaca College, Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education. During each Ithaca College exercise, students fill half of the leadership roles and 80% of the worker positions, providing resume building certifications and skills before graduating in their fields of study. “It only took the creative flare of one professor to merge academia with an ongoing campus public health mission, but everyone directly and indirectly in support of this initiative has made it a seamless success year after year” stated Laura Keefe, Manager of Health Center Operations at Hammond Clinic.

SafeCare® is an evidence-based, behavioral parent-training program for parents of children ages 0-5 years who have been reported for child neglect. Locally, SafeCare® was first implemented several years ago by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and Tompkins Family Treatment Court as an intervention specifically targeted to Family Treatment Court cases where parental substance use was a contributing factor to child neglect. DSS and Family Treatment Court partnered with the Health Department to have Community Health Nurses provide SafeCare® in-home instruction on child health, home safety and parent-child interactions. Parents practice and demonstrate skills learned during the home visit. Prior to SafeCare®, Family Treatment Court cases realized a 42% family reunification rate. In its first three years of implementation, SafeCare® has realized a family reunification rate of 82%.

Rachel Buckwalter, Community Health Nurse and SafeCare® Coach stated, “I have seen the positive impact SafeCare® has on parents’ interactions with their children. Many have only parented in a state of crisis, focusing more on punishment and negative incentives. SafeCare® teaches parents positive engagement to promote good behavior.”


bottom of page