Life and death all in a day’s work for Dalton

Published 10:25 am Monday, May 10, 2010

When it comes to the paperwork attached to being born or dying in Lawrence County, Juanita Dalton is the go-to person.

“If a person is born or passes away, we have that record here,” Dalton, registrar for the Ironton Health Department, said.

Dalton has been working for the health department for about five years now.

Email newsletter signup

Until recently, the price for both a birth and a death certificate was $20. As of last year, the price increased to $25 following a mandate from the state government.

“That was the first time the state actually raised it since I’ve been here and I’ve been here five years in October,” Dalton said.

The money benefits domestic violence and child abuse prevention programs. Dalton said the price increase caused a few people to grumble.

“It’s kind of the same way about your gasoline,” she said. “Everyone hates it but in the end you have to have it.”

Since the hospital closed a few years ago, there are very few births in the county. Last year there were no births at all in the county. Other years there are a few births that were planned to be at home and others were born before the mother got to a hospital.

The health department’s record of birth and death certificates date back to 1909.

Though with the earlier years ‘it’s hit or miss,” she said.

“I don’t think people realize we have them here and that they get to leave with them that day,” she said.

Another misconception is that people can get their original birth certificates from the department.

On the contrary, Dalton is authorized to give official copies of the certificates, but not the originals.

“We get a lot of people that say ‘I’m going on a cruise next week and I need my birth certificate for my passport,” Dalton said. While she tries to work with people and mail their certificates overnight, those types of things usually take longer.

“A lot of times I feel like people should have thought about this last year,” she said.

Birth and death certificates are not all Dalton does. She serves as an intake officer for the clinic. Billing, answering phones and deposits are also her responsibility.

Unofficially, Dalton also answers many questions about other government departments when people call her.

“It’s rare that I can’t give them at least a direction to go,” she said.

Before starting at the health department, Dalton was a clerk in an accounting firm. Before that she was in banking.

She said she has always enjoyed her work in public service.

There have been plenty of interesting experiences, like the time someone she helped get a birth certificate sent her a postcard from Jamaica.

“It’s a fun job,” she said. “I like it.”