Assessments worth cost

I’m so lucky to be the executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties. Let me share what I mean.

Every three years, Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties conduct a health assessment, which gathers data about health care, diseases, weight status, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, men’s and women’s health, quality of life, mental health and suicide, oral health and Veterans’ Affairs. More is included, but you get the idea.

Most of northwest Ohio uses the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio to conduct this survey, which involves youth and adults. Give me a call or drop me an e-mail and I’d be glad to share the scientific way all of this is pulled together. Sandusky County has gone as far as adding a birth-to-11-years-old survey to glean additional information. Seneca and Wyandot counties aren’t there yet.

To reach the number of adults and youth needed to make this a statistically valid report, while ensuring the confidentiality of each respondent, requires more work than one may think. Schools agree to allow Hospital Council staff to come into the classroom to distribute the written survey, which is sealed after the last student completes the survey. Mailings are sent to households for adult input, along with a minimal incentive (perhaps a $2 bill).

Once the data has been summarized, and state and national data are added for comparison purposes, the University of Toledo has health education researchers put this data through a computer program for statistical purposes. So you see, just getting to the final product is pretty intensive – and costly, if only one agency paid for it. By having a group of agencies share the cost, the (almost) $40,000 survey is paid for every three-year cycle. Then, we have survey after survey from which to make comparisons and gauge change.

But we’re not done yet. Now comes the fun in planning what we’re going to do with all this information.

Personnel from schools, hospitals, law enforcement, Family and Children First Council, Department of Job and Family Services, hospice, counseling centers, Developmental Disabilities, the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and other community entities meet to develop a Community Health Improvement Plan. Wyandot County has completed this strategic planning; Sandusky County is finalizing their plan; and Seneca County held its first of six meetings to develop its CHIP. Really, it’s a fun process!

From the data available, the group will pick three to five priority areas for adults and youth. Once these priorities are ranked, we determine what resources are available to address the priorities and what gaps exist. Researching evidence-based practices and drafting the plan are the final phases of this strategic planning.

Seneca County has invited a reporter from The Advertiser-Tribune to attend these meetings to keep the public up to date on what the group is doing.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties is committed to sharing information and resources for better mental health and the prevention of substance abuse. If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties at (419) 448-0640 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The board’s hotline is available 24/7 at (800) 826-1306.

Nancy Cochran, executive director