PORT TOWNSEND — The 2019 Jefferson Community Health Assessment outline of how to improve the overall health of the county has been presented to area health officials.
The assessment was presented Monday afternoon at the Cotton Building by Siri Kushner, epidemiologist with Kitsap Public Health, to a joint meeting of Jefferson Public Health and Jefferson Healthcare boards.
The assessment’s information and data was gathered through a combination of community surveys, key informant interviews and community forums and will eventually be used to craft a new Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).
Through the informant interviews and community forums, the five most key findings to improving overall health were access to health care, aging in place services, affordable housing, childcare/families with young children support and behavioral health coordination and linkages.
Through the community survey, the top five things to improve health and well-being for the county as a whole was more affordable housing, more/better jobs, better access to mental health care, less substance use/abuse and less poverty.
Different parts of the county varied slightly on their order of needed improvements, but the majority of the concerns were the same.
The community forums, survey and key informant interviews were conducted in May, with the forums hosted in Port Townsend, Chimacum and Quilcene. Quantitative data was gathered from April to September.
Only two people attended the Chimacum forum and not much information was gained, said Co-Executive Director of CHIP John Nowak, who led the meeting with fellow co-director Lori Fleming said.
Some of the most recent data that was presented was from 2017, which shows how long it takes to correctly collect and process the data, Kushner said.
The assessment had about 350 people involved in gathering the information, Nowak said.
One data set that was surprising to the team was the self-reported mental health data for children and teens.
“When we look at the youth self-reported mental health data, it’s startling,” Kushner said.
For Jefferson County, 42 percent of eighth graders, 51 percent of tenth and 49 percent of twelve graders reported depressive feelings at least two weeks in a row, according to the assessment which used the data gathered through the Healthy Youth Survey conducted 2018.
The eighth grade and tenth grade percentages are statistically higher than the state averages of 32 percent and 40 percent respectively, according to the Healthy Youth Survey.
In addition to the depressive feelings, one in three youth reported co-occurring depression and/or suicide and drug/alcohol use, the assessment said.
Among CHIP efforts to improve mental health services in the county was the hiring of Jud Haynes, Port Townsend police navigator, officials said.
Haynes is a mental health specialist embedded with the Port Townsend police who assists members of the community with finding services they need.
Haynes was initially hired part time through the One Tenth of One Percent fund. He was raised to full-time after the Port Townsend City Council voted to pay for the additional hours to have him work full time.
A more in-depth presentation regarding the Community Health Assessment will be given on Oct. 25 to a steering group of about 20 stakeholders that Nowak referred to as the “Data Stakeholder Group,” who are from organizations dealing with health care, county and law enforcement.
The stakeholders then will start to refine the Community Health Improvement Plan, with a following meeting to determine prioritization on Oct. 30.
Three public meetings will be conducted to gather further feedback from the community on the actions that should be taken, before the steering group starts to finalize the goals and actions that the plan will encompass.
The meetings will be:
•Nov. 20 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Cotton Building at 607 Water Street, Port Townsend.
•Nov. 21 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Jefferson County Library at 620 Cedar Ave., Port Hadlock.
•Dec. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Quilcene Community Center at U.S. Highway 101 294952.
Nowak hopes to have the Community Health Assessment posted online on the Jefferson County Public Health website at https://www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org/202/Public-Health and eventually on a planned CHIP website, expected to be installed by the end of the month at www.behealthyjefferson.org.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].