Group taking action for healthier community

The Seneca County Health Alliance had its quarterly meeting last week at Tiffin Developmental Center with 14 people attending. Mircea Handru conducted business in the absence of Nancy Cochran.

After approval of the November minutes, Handru passed out a financial report showing a balance of $6,783.34. He explained there is no set amount for annual dues. Each organization can determine what it can afford and pay for the year or for three months at a time.

Of the 15 health alliance agencies, seven have made monetary contributions and submitted memorandums of understanding: Community Hospice Care, Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services, Mental Health and Recovery Services, Mercy Tiffin Hospital, Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services, Seneca County Juvenile Court and Tiffin-Seneca United Way. Seneca County Family and Children First Council and WSOS have submitted memorandums of understanding.

The main order of business was a report and discussion on follow-up activities related to the three-year strategic plan adopted in 2013. The alliance chose four areas of concern, based on the results of the most recent health assessment.

Decreasing obesity

Steve Crone reported he had contacted Tiffin City Schools about planning after-school activities for the coming school year, but no meeting has been set. Hopewell-Loudon and Mohawk schools have expressed interest in being part of the wellness commission.

Sharon George said Seneca Mentoring Youth Links has been introduced in Tiffin City Schools, but it has not started any anti-obesity activities.

“A handful of (high school) juniors are being transported to the middle school to work with students … on character education. The kids at the middle school are using part of their study hall time and part of their lunch time. They break their time into intramurals and lunch,” George said.

The report from Fostoria Community Hospital indicated high-sugar juices have been eliminated from vending machines, and no soda can be purchased in the cafeteria or from the machines. More healthy choices have been made available in the cafeteria line.

The physician relations department at Mercy Tiffin has been informing local doctors about the hospital’s wellness program and placing brochures in physicians’ offices. Mercy also has hired new vendors to provide healthier choices.

Preventive health measures

The two hospitals provided attendance statistics from flu clinics, heart health programs, community health fairs and mammogram screenings they conducted.

Fostoria Hospital also did cholesterol screenings at a factory in North Baltimore.

Volunteer parish nurses in Fostoria do monthly blood pressure screenings at their respective churches, with 100 people served each month.

Mercy administers flu shots and other vaccines to all employees free of charge. Community screening events are offered five times a year; clients pay $30 for the screening package. More than 300 people attended the health fair in February. The next one is May 17 in the conference room.

Mammograms can be obtained at Mercy at a reduced cost or free for eligible clients.

Seneca County Health Department also offers free mammograms at specific times during the year and gives monthly health screenings in Fostoria.

In addition, a mobile dental clinic, the Smile Express, now stops in Tiffin two days a month at Faith United Methodist Church.

George said about 20 people can get dental care each month, ranging from cleanings to fillings. An effort has been made for more collaboration with local dentists, such as making referrals and sharing X-rays from the clinic with local dentists.

Mental health issues

Handru said the mini-grant awarded to the Suicide Prevention Coalition was to be used as incentives for schools whose teachers and staff completed a one-hour online course.

In spite of interest in the effort, personnel from only one school (Calvert) completed the course. Handru said coalition members will continue to invite more schools to get involved.

At least one suicide prevention event, such as depression screening, is to be offered each year.

Robin Reaves reported three Firelands staff members received a week of training to teach Mental Health First Aid. Another training session is to take place in May.

Reaves said the instructors’ training and a free course for the general public this Thursday (see box) were funded through the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

Decreasing substance abuse

Reaves mentioned good attendance at the Community Action for the Reduction of Substance Abuse program about heroin abuse April 6.

She also mentioned the training CARSA offers for employees who serve or sell alcoholic beverages at stores and bars. The instruction is to help prevent sales to underage consumers.

A Lifeskills course was begun in Fostoria Schools; however, the weather delays have interfered with presentation of the course.

Rachel Connor said the Youth Center has started a program of meetings for parents of youth on probation or incarcerated.

The emergency room staff at the Tiffin and Fostoria hospitals have been sent letters offering to train them to recognize victims of substance abuse who may come into the ER. Columbian High School is to host a mock crash in the coming weeks to remind students about the risks of drinking and driving, and Reaves announced Firelands is to offer a forensic conference concerning substance abuse May 21 at Terra State Community College in Fremont.

Jim Jarrett described a 15-minute program he has given to athletic teams at Columbian High School.

Bret Meredith of the State Highway Patrol and another instructor also assisted in teaching “Five Minutes to Life.” The presentation explains how the use of alcohol and illegal drugs can decrease an athlete’s ability to perform.

A student spoke about his own experiences during football season.

“He actually stood in front of his peers and said … since he’s been clean and sober, he’s put on almost 10 pounds of muscle, his grades went up and he’s doing a great job,” Jarrett said.

Jarrett and the other two presenters plan to approach coaches in other school systems and offer the program to their athletes. Information packets have been prepared to explain the content and its goal of reducing substance abuse. The athletes are asked to distribute information in the schools.

Jarrett said he plans to obtain banners such as “Click It or Ticket” to give to coaches to display at athletic events.

Just before adjournment, Bill McCallister, representing Seneca County Park District, introduced himself as a newcomer to the alliance. He said the parks board wants to do more community collaboration and is willing to host events at its parks.

“Looking at your goals of decreasing obesity and getting people more active … we’ve got a lot of opportunities out there as far as facilities for people to get active,” he said.

George announced Ohio’s Fatherhood Commission has awarded a mini-grant to Family and Children First to organize a Father’s Day celebration June 14 on Courthouse Square.

The first farmers’ market also is planned that day. George said the event will be similar to the Peace Fair but it will have booths offering information and presentations for fathers.

Handru said he plans to collect information to compare the progress of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties on the four objectives. He reminded the group all agencies are to have action plans in place for obesity by the October meeting.

The next health alliance meeting is at 9 a.m. July 23 at Tiffin Developmental Center. To learn more, call (419) 448-0640.