WINFIELD, W.Va. — It’s been a long road, but the Putnam County Health Department is a week away from becoming independent once again. The department will become an independent organization and will regain its autonomy, July 1.

For the past six years, the Putnam County Board of Health has contracted with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for day-to-day services. It was a decision made when the department found itself in severe financial distress. The department in 2013 was facing legal fees and a $400,000 judgment in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

“The debt has been paid off for several years now,” said Lolita Kirk, the incoming administrator for the health department. “The board of health has been reestablishing its reserve fund which is recommended in code. After that was obtained, all audits are up to date and current.”

Kirk has worked for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department since 1996. She’ll leave Kanawha County and become the full-time administrator in Putnam County when the change occurs. That’s just one of several staffing changes which will happen.

“We have one lady who is close to retiring, but some new staff is coming on board and some existing staff is staying,” Kirk explained.

The department will emerge as a full service department providing all of the normal services. Kirk said the transition six years ago was made without the loss of any of those services and it’s unlikely the public will notice anything different as the transition back to independent status takes place.

“They will see the same sanitarians inspecting their restaurants and the same nursing staff administering vaccinations,” she said. “From all appearances, it’s the same operation.”