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Health assessment targets mental health, obesity, housing

Times News - 5/16/2019

May 16-- May 16--Mental health, substance abuse, physical activity and nutrition, along with safe and affordable housing, are the top priorities in Henderson County, a recent Community Health Assessment determined.

A brief summary and report of the county's assessment, including its recommendations and findings, were presented to the Board of Health at its meeting Tuesday.

The report, completed on a three-year cycle, was recently submitted to the state, as is required. The CHA is a facilitated partnership with AdventHealth Hendersonville, Pardee UNC Health Care and the Henderson County Partnershipfor Health, with support of the Henderson CountyBoard of Health.

The information is crucial to public health, according to Community Health Improvement Director Stacy Taylor, who provided the update to the board and was instrumental in the assessment.

The community engagement and participation in the CHA is unprecedented, Taylor added.

The county received support for the CHA from WNC Healthy Impact, a partnership between hospitals and health departments in North Carolina to improve community health.

Locally, the CHA process is guided by a CHA team, which reviews data to develop a short list of health concerns. The issues are then brought to the Partnership for Health and the community to prioritize and develop actions plans.

A community forum was held Feb. 1 to develop priorities for the next three-year cycle. The priorities stayed the same with additional and specific focal points.

The focus areas with each priority for the next three-year CHA cycle include: mental health (access to care, youth considering suicide and adverse childhood experiences); substance abuse (use of opioids, youth using E-vape products); physical activity and nutrition (food insecurity, physical activity); and safe and affordable housing (total cost-burden, rental spending).

Hospitals and community partners are to create action teams to develop plans and strategies for addressing these designated health priorities.

The information in the CHA comes from a variety of community health data.

As for community demographics, Henderson County has a large elderly population, with individuals age 65 and older making up nearly 25% of the population, according to the CHA. By comparison, the state average is around 15%.

The county's steady population growth over the last four decades is predicted to continue, despite the declining birth rate, particularly for those in the 75-84 age group, according to the assessment.

While unemployment rates have decreased in the county, and are lower than the state average, overall poverty increases. Particularly in terms of housing, as almost one in five renters are spending more than half their income on housing.

For health outcomes, Henderson County fares favorably in the state. The county ranked No. 15 in 2018 and No. 13 in 2019.

The assessment lists cancer, heart disease, unintentional injuries (including drug overdoses), chronic lower respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, suicide, pneumonia and influenza, motor vehicle injuries and chronic liver disease are the leading causes of death in the county.

Mortality rate trends for Henderson County have increased for cancer, unintentional injuries (including overdoses), suicide, pneumonia and influenza, and motor vehicle injuries, according to the assessment.

Opioids caused the highest proportion of drug overdose deaths in Henderson County, the CHA states.

According to the most recent North Carolina Nutrition and Physical Activity and Surveillance System data, more than 18% of the participating children in the Henderson County ages 2-4 were deemed as "overweight." Additionally, around 14% were deemed "obese."

To access and view the full CHA report, go to www.hendersoncountync.gov/health/page/community-data.

Substance Abuse Taskforce

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Board of Health member and Henderson County Commissioner Bill Lapsley provided a summary of the county's task force on substance abuse.

The main recommendation from the task force is to create a position for a community resource navigator for community members dealing with substance abuse. Lapsley says the idea has support, and he will push to make sure the position is funded.

The other recommendations from the report include:

? Encouraging the Partnership for Health to continue to act as the consortium of local behavioral health organizations tasked with coordinating the community efforts in this arena.

? Support the efforts of Henderson County DSS and others to help families dealing with addicted substance abusers.

? Support and fund community efforts to coordinate services and programs through a single source (resource navigator).

? Encourage a dialogue between the state probation officers and the proposed resource navigator.

? Encourage the collaboration of Blue Ridge Community College with those victims that are processed through a rehabilitation program to join the workforce and become productive members of the community.

? Continue to support the Henderson County Sheriff's Office in holding local drug dealers accountable. The support spans to the District Attorney's Office.

? Continue medical provider participation in the North Carolina Controlled Substance Reporting System.

? Continue support for the availability of naloxone to county EMS and first responders.

? Consider tasking a county leader to pursue further dialogue with community resources such as Blue Ridge Health, Family Preservation Services and The Free Clinics regarding expanded programs.

? Continue to support mental health and substance abuse programs in Henderson County Public Schools.

? Continue dialogue with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office and Detention Center to ascertain the best approach to educating and directing known abusers into a program that could lead to recovery and an exit from the criminal justice system.

? Encourage HopeRx to continue its efforts of education and training in the public school system. Expand the Henderson County Youth Summit program.

? Recognize the continued support of the faith-based community in the efforts to combat this epidemic.

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(c)2019 Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C.

Visit Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C. at www.blueridgenow.com

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