JEFFERSON, Iowa – Every five years, Greene County Public Health conducts a countywide survey, asking residents to discuss their healthcare concerns. After the results are tabulated, Public Health identifies the areas of greatest need and develops a plan to enhance care and services around the issues.
“The one healthcare issue most universally touched on by our communities is a shortfall of mental healthcare providers,” said Public Health Director, Becky Wolf. “One of the barriers to care began when the state started closing their facilities. It really decreased bed availability.”
Wolf said other factors have also played a role. “Another population doesn’t need hospitalization, but do need help through medication management and/or therapy.” The medical field has done a good job of increasing awareness and letting people know it is okay to not be okay, so more people are seeking help.” There is also an increase in the number of minors reaching out for mental health services.
The plan brings county resources together with an objective of a 50% increase in the number of behavioral health providers by the year 2028. This will be accomplished through three strategies: the implementation of tele-health services; additional mental health professionals at Greene County Medical Center; and RNs pursuing mid-level certification through a tuition assistance program, also at Greene County Medical Center; and New Opportunities’ Behavioral Health program will support hiring of master’s-prepared mental health and substance abuse clinicians. Wolf said mental health and substance abuse issues can overlap.
“When people are feeling helpless and hopeless, they sometimes self-medicate with alcohol and/or drugs,” she explained. “This leads to an even bigger problem. It’s kind of like concentric circles and the patient has to overcome one before they can get back to treat the other.” That is why another identified goal is to reach a five percent reduction in substance use deaths by 2028.
Two other goals with strategies include reduction of head and neck cancers by 15% in the next five years and a decrease in the rate of chronic disease-related (diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity) deaths by 2%.
Wolf, Public Health RN, Shelby Cooklin and Social Worker, Sara Miller are confident they will make great strides with the Health Improvement Plan they developed over the past several months. “I don’t think there are going to be very many goals on this plan that drop off because we are unable to meet them,” Cooklin said. “It is something that is very solid and seems to have good community partner buy-in.”
In the near future, the Health Improvement Plan will be published on the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services website at hhs.iowa.gov. Questions can be directed to Greene County Public Health at 515-386-3228.