Mental Health and Addictions Needs Assessment Priorities

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Dr. James Porter referred to the popular phrase “it takes a village” to describe the collaboration of medical officials in the region to meet the health needs of the community.

“I stole this from someone, I’m not exactly sure,” said Porter, president of the Deaconess Health System Physicians Division. “I think Hillary Clinton wrote a book title at some point (“It Takes A Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us)”.

Porter was among several speakers addressing health issues in the region at the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) press conference Wednesday at the Evansville Central Library.

“No single organization or entity in the community can impact these different priorities (by itself),” he said.

Mental health and addiction are the top two health issues in Vanderburgh County, said Doug Berry of Diehl Consulting Group. Exercise, weight and nutrition (including food insecurity and healthy lifestyle), and maternal and child health are other major issues.

In Warrick County, the top priorities are behavioral health, exercise, weight and nutrition, and access to care (especially transportation).

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Conducted every three years in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, CHNA is a mandatory federal assessment for nonprofit hospitals that identifies recurring causes of poor health, then focuses resources to support and drive positive change. Hospitals perform a CHNA to identify and prioritize community health needs.

Local assessment has been consistent when it comes to mental health and some form of obesity, Porter said.

“The new thing is transportation, in County Warrick,” he said. “It’s more of a rural area, especially an older population. I hope we know what our priorities are, what we have to work on.

Porter said progress is being made.

“The pandemic has been a significant disruptor,” he said. “Everything else we were doing (was sidelined) because of COVID. It is a new kind of era.

He said officials were able to refocus on other areas as COVID receded somewhat. Porter is part of a local group reviewing ongoing initiatives and 2022-25 implementation strategies.

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“We’re getting our traction back,” he said. “There has been a lot of collaboration across the region, to deal with change.”

Lynn Herr, director of the clinical and outreach division for the Vanderburgh County Health Department, said the infant death rate was eight per 1,000 overall and 24 per 1,000 among black infants.

Porter said Herr highlighted one of the priorities for the infant death rate around sleep practices: “What’s safe and what’s not. We’ve made real progress.”

The deaconess has started clinics about it, Porter said. There has been cooperation between various entities to find ways to better serve communities in the region.

“During the pandemic, we’ve done an incredible job of working together,” Porter said. “Funding these types of services is difficult everywhere.

The 2022 CHNA Implementation Plan was based on a variety of sources, including the 2021 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, the Indiana State Department of Health, the U.S. Census, and the Welborn Baptist Foundation, the 2021 Greater Evansville Health Survey and other local data sources provided by community partners.

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