Our Plan of Action
We are working in healthcare, on the social determinants of health and on long-term, county-wide strategic planning to both address the issues affecting people and their families, and to bring the primary impact sectors of our community together to form a unified vision for the future and to develop a collaborative, long-term strategic plan on how to achieve that vision.
To address the needs of individuals and families, we are working with people who have unmet, ongoing health, social and economic issues. We are examining the full range of their needs and looking deep to find out what their most fundamental issues are--what are the root causes of all their other issues that are actually consequences and symptoms of the deeper issues.
Once we, along with the clients, determine the full range of factors that are causing these idividuals or families difficulty, we devise an integrated plan to address them all, using the full range of resources and expertise available to our coaltion members. A coordinator works with each client to facilitate the process and to make sure the clients have access to all the available resources, stay on track with appointments, and maintain progress toward their goals.
We are also working at the strategic level to improve the physical and socioeconomic environment for the community, as a whole. As a rural community, there are only a relative few major organizations that act as the levers of change. City governments, the county government, the county schools, the community college, and the healthcare sector are the primary levers in our community. The community-at-large is, of course, the single most important center, and we will be engaging with them at every step. Of particular importance, we want to engage the young people, our students and young professionals, because they will be the ones living in the place we are trying to build. We are working with the leverage centers to develop a single, unified vision for the future of the county. Each of these organizations has their own individual strategic plan, their own mandates, and their own resource limitations. They have individual responsibilities. However, there are large areas of overlap among the leverage centers and, insofar as is possible, we are working to craft a single vision and a long-term strategy (5, 10, 20 or even 30 years) by which we can, as a unified, collaborative community, build a culture of health and prosperity.
We think that we can only achieve meaningful and sustainable change if we work at both levels--directly assisting individuals and families to overcome the obstacles that are preventing them from reaching their potential, and working to change the community environment through collective strategic planning and long-term goal-setting. This is not the work of a few years. This is the work of generations.
Our Working Groups
Primary Health Care Access
Access to primary care for management of acute and chronic disease, as well as for oral health and Optometry are key factors for overall health. Among our members are primary healthcare providers who can work with patients no matter what their insurance status may be. Access to care also depends on such factors as transportation, child care and availability outside work hours. Our primary care working group will be working on potential ways to address all of the factors that impact people and facilitating their ability to manage their physical healthcare needs.
Access to behavioral health care is problematic in almost all rural places, due to too few providers to fill the community need. The members of our Behavioral Health Work Group will focus not only on getting people access to the care they need, but also to increasing the number of points of access, such as through the schools and law enforcement, educating people in the helping professions on how to recognize behavioral health issues and how to deal with them appropriately. We will also be working with healthcare providers to enhance their ability to provide behavioral health support in the primary care, urgent care and emergency care setting.
Substance Use Disorder
SUD affects a high percentage of rural families, whether it is alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit drugs. We understand it is a disease, not a choice or a failure of character. We will be working to integrate a greater understanding of SUD throughout the community and to coordinate better access to inpatient and, where appropriate, outpatient therapy. We will also be working with our member organizations, governments and the courts to improve support for people in recovery and just coming out of treatment, because putting someone back into the same environment they left as an addict is a recipe for failure. We are working toward a goal of having the full spectrum of treatment and support available locally to serve our people.
Child Care and Early Childhood Development
Child care is hugely important for families with children, particularly with children below school age. Availability of affordable, quality child care impacts the ability of people to work, to take care of medical needs, to attain more career training and much more. Not only does child care impact the workforce and community health, it also impacts the development of kids. Our child care work group will be assisting people in finding available care, working to expand the availability of child care to make sure that having a family isn't a limiting factor for people to fully achieve their health and prosperity goals. Early childhood development is important to the entire community. ECD spans from prenatal through early school-age, and involves almost all areas in which we work. Nowhere can resources be used with greater impact. It is part of everything we do. Our members have the ability to help kids and parents at every stage.
issues of Aging
Rural communities are older than urban ones, and many elders live lives that are uncertain, unhealthy, lonely and unnecessarily unpleasant for people who should be living out their years as they see fit, secure and cared for. We will be working with our elders to provide the facilities and services that they want, not necessarily what science makes possible. We will be working on providing in-home support mechanisms to keep old folks in their homes as long as they can be. We will be working to ensure that we have residential facilities to accommodate seniors at all levels of ability, physical and mental health. We are working toward the day that no old person need fear being sick alone or not being able to tend to their own needs. Our old people will live their final years in dignity and security. Obviously, this is a heavy lift, but old folks are the ones who shouldered the burden in their youth and they should be cared for by the communities they helped build.
Housing and Homelessness
The physical environment people live in is a huge factor in all other aspects of life. Housing is part of that, as is air and water quality, and the surrounding neighborhood, among other things. As communities age, the housing stock ages as well, leading to movement of people from place to place, based primarily on economic wherewithal, as well as social and cultural factors. We will marshal our resources to provide quality, safe housing for people of all income levels, through rehabilitation, maintenance and new construction. Quality housing for people at all levels benefits everyone by enhancing the community environment and improving health. Our goal is that, in Hopkins County, no one sleeps outside and no one lives in a home that doesn't contribute to their wellness.
Like people, communities age and change. The public infrastructure is what we all share that weaves the community together. Roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, parks, entertainment venues, public art and other amenities define the culture of a place and its people. If we want to build a community where young people want to stay and to which professional people want to move, we have to do what we can to provide the amenities that people want. We have some wonderful amenities in Hopkins County, but we still have a long way to in some areas. Our infrastructure work group will bring together all the resources so we can plan for and build a modern community where people want to grow up and raise families.
The heart of any community is its education system. It's the foundation of the future for the young and the ticket to a better life for everyone. We are fortunate to have excellent schools and an excellent college in Hopkins County. We think that if we engage all the stakeholders, we can improve outcomes for both our youth and our lifelong learners. We will work toward the goals that all children will enter Kindergarten ready to learn and that all students in Hopkins County will be reading at grade level by third grade. We will work towards improving the college or trade school readiness of all students and we will develop an organization to assist all students find the right training and the financial assistance to pay for it. We will encourage our current employers to work with our schools and college to ensure we are preparing people for the jobs we have. We will plan strategically to ensure we are building the workforce for the future, as well.
Like many rural places, our rates of obesity for both adults and children are horrible, as are our rates of heart disease and diabetes. Our rates of food insecurity are also much too high. In the Hopkins County we are working to build, no one will go to bed hungry. We have a number of resources in the county already working toward this goal. Our Nutrition work group will work with all these resources to maximize the effectiveness of everyone's efforts. We will work to develop a distribution network for fresh and healthy foods, along with the education on how to prepare healthy foods. We will work to encourage restaurants to provide healthier options and reduce waste. We will use all the best ideas that are out there to make sure no one is hungry in a land of plenty.
The final work group area is, perhaps, the most important. For any of this to work, it must be community-driven. The community must believe in it and want to do what is necessary to achieve it. The community work group will work to ensure that ALL members of the community have an equal voice in the process. We will seek to find ways to enhance the sense of community and the feeling of being connected to the community. We are building a future to be proud of and everyone: young, old, rich, poor, black, white or brown will be a part of it.