Well being agent takes up work in Amesbury | Native information

AMESBURY – A new health agent is making the rounds of town and she’s already busy.

Deborah “Deb” Ketchen has been a Health Advisor for 15 years, in Merrimac since 2006. She has also served as a health advisor in Groveland and Rowley.

The Haverhill native has joined the city as a full-time health advisor and will continue to work in the same role in Merrimac in her spare time.

Working in the public health sector during a global pandemic has been challenging for everyone involved, according to Ketchen.

“The last year and a half has been amazing, it really is,” said Ketchen. “I couldn’t even go on vacation. I just can’t. I always have calls, emails, and texts to answer. Every day.”

The health officer is a newly created position in the city. Ketchen said her focus is on food and home safety.

“Right now, my focus is on inspecting all of the restaurant operations,” said Ketchen. “They haven’t been inspected for about a year because of COVID. Most health departments are currently in the same situation and many places have closed.”

Mayor Kassandra Gove has restructured the city’s inspection services department, which recently moved to the urban development center on South Hunt Road.

Fire chief Ken Berkenbush was the city’s assistant health director after previous health director Jack Morris resigned in September. Morris continues to work in the same position in Salisbury.

The city council plans to eventually move all health matters – including health inspections, flu information, mosquito control, and water quality tests – to the inspection services department.

City communications director Catlin Thayer said Berkenbush and emergency management will continue to take on pandemic-related public health tasks like buying personal protective equipment, vaccine clinics, guidelines and recommendations.

“We are currently in a transition phase with some public health duties being done by Deb and some by Ken and his team,” Thayer said in an email.

Ketchen recently started on an annual salary of $ 61,118 and will report to Inspection Services Director Ernest Creveling.

“I’ll be on the field, but Ernest is my contact and he supports me,” said Ketchen. “I’m busy right now, trying to get into the restaurants and answer all incoming calls and emails at the same time.

“I also make a schedule to go to restaurants once or twice a week,” she added. “This has really become the priority to get them done and running. You have to inspect (a restaurant) twice a year.”

Ketchen is a 1978 graduate of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in homeland security and emergency management from Ashford University and an associate’s degree in food technology from the Essex Agricultural Institute in 2012.

Employee writer Jim Sullivan reports on Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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