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Miami University enters new contract with Butler County Health Department

Miami University and the Butler County General Health District (BCGHD) have re-entered a six-month contract to let Miami contact trace on behalf of the BCGHD.

Kendall Leser, the public health program director at Miami, said the university will be responsible for contact tracing anyone living in the 45056 zip code and children ages 3-18 in Butler County. The contract began Sept. 20, and will end Feb. 28, 2022.

Miami and BCGHD’s previous contract was in use from July 2020 to June 30, 2021 and allowed Miami to contact trace all of Butler County on BCGHD’s behalf, but the contract ended when the Ohio Department of Health partnered with the Public Consulting Group (PCG),, which took over contact tracing for the entire state. 

“The reason that we had to end our contract with Miami University for contact tracing was because the Ohio Department of Health in April said that funding would no longer be paid for contract tracing because they were entering a contract with PCG,” said Erin Smiley, health promotion director at BCGHD.

PCG will still be responsible for contacting anyone in Butler County who does not live within the 45056 zip code. 

The state’s health department gave localities the option to contact trace internally, but because BCGHD is a smaller health department, it couldn’t keep up with the cases.

“It was either don’t partner with the Ohio Department of Health and try to do contact tracing internally by ourselves or go with the Ohio Department of Health contact tracing,” Smiley said. 

Due to the recent surge in cases across the state, however, the Ohio Department of Health is again allowing health departments to get the help they need.

“With the surge that we are seeing, the Ohio Department of Health made a decision recently to allow health departments to contract out,” Smiley said. “And because of that, we’re able to go back to Miami University because it was a great partnership.” 

Leser hopes the new partnership will simplify the contact tracing process because students who test positive will only be getting one call from the university. Previously, students were getting two: one from the university and one from PCG.

“From a Miami perspective, it might be a more straightforward process for students because they’re going to get one call,” Leser said. “They’re going to talk to our contact tracers, and they’re going to get their official isolation move-in dates over the phone.”

Because Miami couldn’t quarantine and isolate students who tested positive on behalf of Butler County, Miami could only give out estimated dates of when students who tested positive for COVID-19 would move into isolation. It was PCG’s job to call students with their official date of move-in.

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Now, Miami will be able to give official isolation dates.

The contract also granted Miami $196,000 to hire tracers to call positive COVID patients and anyone they might have been in contact with next steps. Since the start of the initial partnership in July 2020, Miami has received over $800,000 from BCGHD to help with contact tracing.

Since Miami is in charge of a larger population, they are seeking people to help with contract tracing. Last year the contact tracing team included about 140 employees to cover the entire county. Currently, they are operating with less than 40. 

Undergraduate students who are interested in applying can fill out the application here.