MARINETTE — Plans to help make the Marinette County medical examiner a full-time position by adding public health education duties to the job moved forward Wednesday.

The Health and Human Services Board voted to recommend to the county board’s Administrative Committee that a vacant part-time community educator position be eliminated immediately.

“The Health and Human Services Department is requesting to eliminate the half-time community educator position in the Public Health Department,” said the justification request for the action. “Community health education will be provided by the newly-created medical examiner position. The position has been funded (previously) through public health grants.”

The county board voted earlier this year to establish a medical examiner position when the current term of longtime Coroner George Smith ends in January. The board voted in August that the position be fulltime and require a bachelor’s degree in nursing, chemistry, forensic science, criminal justice or a closely related field. In order to ensure attracting qualified applicants by making the position fulltime, the job description calls for the medical examiner to help with public health education and possibly be coordinator of the Teen Court.

HHS Director Robin Elsner said “we’ve historically had a difficult time filling this position,” so County Administrator John Lefebvre, Public Health Officer Molly Bonjean and he discussed the possibility of public health education being included in the medical examiner’s duties.

“So that’s part of the position’s job description, I think it makes sense,” Elsner said. “So I’m asking this committee to eliminate the (community health educator) position. Public health education, maternal child health and bioterrorism preparedness would be the three areas the public health educator would provide.

“I would also think that the medical examiner would serve on our Child Death Review Committee because that would also be an important aspect.”

County Supervisor Mike Behnke, a member of the HHS Board, asked what the specific health education duties of the medical examiner would be?

“Any type of health education,” Bonjean said. “To free up things the nurses need to do. I think some of the details still need to be worked out”

“This person will do the education to free up the (public health) nurses’ time to do nursing,” Lefebvre said. “You’re (HHS) going to get some assistance from the UW-Extension. The UW-Extension is out there to assist Public Health with health and well-being education.”

Elsner said the community educator position was a half-time bachelor’s degree position and that it is currently vacant, but has been filled in the past by several individuals.

“I believe the medical examiner having a bachelor’s degree has the skillset like most people with bachelor’s degrees to provide public education and do public speaking and provide these services,” he said. “I believe it would be a good fit.”

County Supervisor Robert Hoyer, a member of the HHS Board, asked Lefebvre how adding health education duties to the job description of the medical examiner will affect how many applicants are received. 

“Do you think this is going to help or hinder (attracting applicants)?” Hoyer asked.

“It’s in the job desription and I already have applications,” Lefebvre said. “I have suitable applicants that we’ll be reviewing with the chairperson of the Public Services Committee and hopefully we’ll be starting interviews soon after.”