At the Grant County Community Health Council meeting Monday, Dec. 16, Dr. Don Johnson was awarded Emeritus status for his 14 years of service to the health council.

"I would like to remind the community that a lot of what exists here is because of this health council," Johnson said. "Examples are Corre Caminos, The Wellness Coalition, The Volunteer Center, and Hidalgo Medical Services, which most recently began a family practice residency program here in Silver City.

"Several health care providers now serving the community, including me, hung around after doing training here," Johnson continued.

"Of course, nearest and dearest to me is the First Born Program," he said. "We have the technology now to be able to demonstrate changes in babies brains. We can measure physically the changes, which show resiliency. First Born is now in 15 counties in the state, as well as the Zuni pueblo and Navajo Nation.

He said the downside for him is that he is concerned by mental health needs in the community. "There is no psychiatrist who sees outpatients. Yes, we have a psychiatrist at the hospital. Plus, there is no detox facility here.

Johnson also said HMS has a new director, who will begin after the first of the year. She has served in Las Cruces, and most recently in Durango, Colo., but she is coming back to the area she calls home.

Another major event that took place during his participation on the health council was the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative. "We also have one of only three Food Policy Councils in the state. A.J. (Sandoval), HKKC coordinator is starting a four-county Food Policy Council because this one has been so successful."

Priscilla Lucero, Health Council chairwoman, when she gave the award to Johnson said: "This award is for Dr. Johnson, because we worked together to get the HKHC grant. He helped get it off the ground and he has always been there for the community and with his care for children."

The next presentation was by Razanna Thomas, Partnerships for Success II grant coordinator.

"This is a youth substance abuse prevention initiative," Thomas said. "We are targeting underage drinking for youths ages 12-20, and prescription drug abuse for those 12-25 years of age. We are one of the five worst counties in New Mexico."

She reported that 22.9 percent of high school students self-reported prescription drug abuse. "We are No. 1 in the state, and New Mexico is No. 1 in the country for prescription drug abuse among youths."

Thomas also said 17.3 percent of students reported they drink and drive.

This past summer, the group held focus groups to obtain quantitative data. "We heard from people in 19 focus groups, including middle-school and high-school students in separate groups, as well as their parents, also in separate groups. We had focus groups at Western, as well as groups for community members from throughout the county."

She reported that common perceptions included 40 percent believe access to alcohol and prescription drugs was too easy. Only 30 percent of the students said they had an adult in their lives to whom they could talk about their problems.  "And 69 percent do not have an adult in their lives that feel the individual youth will be successful in life."

"The partnership chose 10 evidence-based strategies," Thomas said. "We want to work on policy adjustments, and we want to brand the 101 Things for Youth to Do. We hope a youth can find one thing they wouldn't mind doing again."

Council member Sam Redford asked why reporting numbers have gone up and whether it is because of better tracking.

Council member Cindy McClean of the DWI Program said when she saw the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey numbers from 2011, "I was shocked that they went up so high," because the trend had been heading downward.

Maurine Laney, health council member, suggested that the video "Life of an Athlete" be shown to all students from middle school on up, because it shows what alcohol and drugs do to a body.
"I went to the athletic director and asked for it to be a requirement in middle school," Laney said. "I was told that it was used punitively when a kid gets in trouble. I would like to see it advocated at junior high level, so that students can get a certificate and then be allowed to play sports."

"We are seeking such policy changes," Thomas said. "We want rules to be written and consistent throughout the schools."

Mary Stoecker, council member, said she believes the policy change could easily be implemented by making it part of the athletics policy.

Tiffany Knauf, GCCHC coordinator, reported on the Community Enhancement Fund. "It is done and was a great program. I am thankful for working with Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc., which established the fund in 2006, with location fees received for the filming of 'North Country' on then-Phelps-Dodge property. The company gave the money back to the community. We expected it to be done in a year. Over eight years, $400,000 was given out for 63 projects. Most were for multiple trainings and events. We still have six upcoming trainings in 2014 funded by the CEF. The Freeport Foundation and the Gila Regional Medical Center Foundation have dealt with the money management."

Knauf continued with her coordinator update. "We have created four priorities and developed seven plans as a result of the 2012 Assessment Survey.  The new website is live at gcchc.org, and has a searchable resource directory."

She said the New Mexico Health Council Alliance received funding last year to allocate $5,000 to each health council "We had to prove our deliverables, which were the assessment, the development of priorities and that we had a plan. Done, done and done."

Knauf said the alliance is asking for another $900,000, which would give $25,000 to each health council. Sen. Howie Morales is supporting it on the Senate side of the Legislature, and Rep. Don Tripp on the House side.

She invited those council members who do not receive the community calendar updates to email her and get on the list. "We send it out weekly."

Knauf said the Red Hot Children's Fiesta was a "great success. We had 2,300 children and parents and 45 providers.  At the Mimbres Health Fair, providers gave out 1,034 free health screenings."

She announced the Non-Profit Resources Conference to take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., March 14.

Connie Hostetler presented on Senior Issues. "I want to reiterate what Dr. Johnson said. As a former teacher, I have to trust that the seeds you plant will turn into something."

She reported that Jennifer Averill, a nurse from Albuquerque, has been coming to the area for years and continues her research on the frail and elderly.

"I do ongoing work on getting people into Medicare," Hostetler said. "I can answer their questions. We also have upcoming a caregiver refresher course, which consists of seven trainings."

Lucero said one of the senior issues is senior hunger, with Grant County at the top for senior hunger. "There will be a forum on the issue July 17 and 18, with Walmart putting in funding to support it. Grant County and Catron County are among the highest for senior hunger."

Sandoval gave his final presentation on the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities grant, which is finishing up four years of funding.

"We have done leadership and advocacy training," Sandoval reported. "We used a curriculum from California and focused on nutrition and obesity in the Mining District and in Silver City. We brought it to adults and youths. For the youths, I got a scholarship to take them to Tennessee for an obesity conference. We worked on a walking school bus program, with an adult leader gathering the students across a neighborhood, like a bus, to walk them to school. It took a couple of years, but this year 20 students are walking to school. We got high school students trained to walk elementary students to school."

Other programs developed through the HKHC included the Farm to School, which served produce from local farmers to more than 1,000 students. "I took 30 first graders to a farm. They didn't know that vegetables came from a seed. Now we are working on community gardens for all the schools. It was great to see kids and a teacher see that seeds, dirt and water turn into peas to eat."

The expansion of the Food Policy Council to the four counties is something no other program has, according to Sandoval. "We want to have more input in the state."

Another successful program was the Trails Day. "We are distributing to clinics, the prescription trails, so that a physician can prescribe a person walk a certain trail a certain amount of time a week."

"With Freeport McMoRan Community Investment Fund money we developed a families program on meal planning and developing self-esteem," Sandoval continued. "We had 25 families in two events. HMS has taken over the program as our grant funding is ending."

Another initiative took place at the Food Basket grocery stores, "which have been very supportive of the program. We created a family-friendly lane with no candy or soda and put in healthy snacks. The stores took it on and maintained it."

"We have done a lot of assessments, in agriculture, trails, parks and grocery stores," Sandoval said. "We have also brought in funding to continue the projects."

During committee reports, Knauf talked about the progress on the plans for the priorities. "For behavioral health, we have two aims." Stoecker took over the report and said one aim is for better utilization of services for adults and the other is youth substance abuse, which is being addressed by the partnership and across the four-county region. "We want a 'safe place' for youths."

Terry Anderson, council member, asked about the gap in services.

Stoecker said the Local Collaborative 6 is working on determining the gaps and how to fill them.

"These are still draft plans," Knauf cautioned. "We will vote on them at the March Health Council meeting. The next priority is public health and safety. There are many issues, but we will focus on disabilities. For instance, there is no way for a person to register for help needed in case of an evacuation. Those with disabilities and the elderly are at risk. One thing we noted is that two of the shelters built for Corre Caminos are not handicapped-accessible."

She continued with the third priority, family resiliency. "We had a fantastic meeting on senior issues. It was exciting to put down things that are getting started. None of the plans is solo. They are all intertwined with the others."

Stoecker spoke about the fitness and nutrition subgroup of family resiliency. "The Fitness and Nutrition Committee (FANC) is doing an action plan, with a close link to the health council."

Anderson addressed the early childhood portion of family resiliency. "Where are our children from birth to age 5? That is the question we asked. We want to expand access and referrals for care and connect the resources to follow children through the system. We want to survey parents at the birth of their child to see what they want for their children. Then we can find out if families are using resources."

The fourth priority is interpersonal violence. Knauf said the county is much higher for sexual assault and domestic violence than other parts of the state. "There are a lot of things being worked on that we are trying to coordinate for the plan. For instance, the schools don't have a policy for sexual assault at school. Another focus is bullying. The interpersonal violence subgroup is trying to connect bullies, with the bullied and families, as a resource to raise awareness, and develop prevention and intervention initiatives. We have had success with the small community groups joining us at the meetings."

In sector reports, Armando Amador of the veterans' sector said he and other veterans are working for veterans' services in the area. "With Fort Bayard for sale, we want PTSD services for women."

McClean, representing prevention, announced a Teen Maze will be held April 8-10 at the County Business and Conference Center. "It will be for 8th graders, and 11th and 12 graders. A career day will be held at the same time, same place."

Kathleen Hunt of the behavioral health sector said Border Area is still "hanging in. We are increasing DWI instructors and will hold extra classes. We want to start providing alcohol server training, and we will be redoing the sliding fee scale for our programs. If you see a need for something from us, let us know."

Shepard said the university closes Monday, Dec. 23 for the holiday. "We will be doing budget adjustments for better efficiency, because enrollment did not increase quite as much as we expected."

He encouraged people to attend and support the university sports teams. "The volleyball teams finished great this year. Come watch girl's basketball. They couldn't win anything two years ago; now they're coming really close to wins. Football ended well."

Chief Ed Reynolds, representing law enforcement, said the Silver City Police Department has been busy. "If you are interested in the year's statistics, visit silvercitypublicsafety.org. November was the first month this year we were under 1,000 calls for service, but our officers did a lot of self-initiated work. We put together five baskets for families for Thanksgiving. We just finished collecting coats for kids, and are collecting for Christmas baskets."

Lucero, representing economic development, invited council members to give input about what economic development should be for Grant County, to do a statewide economic development plan.

"Our council of governments is taking the lead and being fiscal agent, because of the plan's importance to rural areas," Lucero said. "It will drive funding from the federal level to the area. We were also invited to apply for a Promise Zone. If it is granted, we will get more federal funding for education, law enforcement, and economic development. We got 50 letters of support. Only 20 communities in the U.S. will be chosen. We are also part of a pilot project on broadband. We need to know the areas that are unserved, which will be eligible for federal funding, and we want to know about the areas that are underserved. We will survey schools, small businesses, residents and larger businesses. We want to hear from you. We will ask for your help to get the survey out to people."

At the end of the meeting, Lucero, choking back tears, asked for a moment of silence for Gloria Terrazas, who had died earlier that morning. "She was my economic development planner for five years. She gave her all."

The next Health Council meeting will take place at 3 p.m. Monday, March 17, at the Grant County Administration Center.

Live from Silver City

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