Good things are happening within the Healthy Jackson County Coalition, a collaboration of many organizations within the county to improve the health of local residents.
During a two-year grant term, Purdue University’s Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering will deploy many I-HOPE partners to work on projects statewide. This also includes 30 counties, including Jackson, that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to news.iu.edu.
The effort is being funded by a $34.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which Jackson County will share a portion.
The Indiana Healthy Opportunities for People Everywhere initiative, or I-HOPE, will deploy teams across the state to facilitate community-level conversations and develop strategies to address the factors that prevent people from living their healthiest lives over the next two years.
The Healthy Jackson County Coalition initially focused on three key areas: Improving nutrition, decreasing tobacco use and increasing physical activity.
The Hispanic health task force was created in May 2020 as a response to the pandemic and the disparities being seen affecting the Hispanic community.
Bethany Daugherty, key coordinator of the coalition, said members of the task force are specifically working toward reaching the Hispanic members of the community and making information available in their language.
Ashley Caceres spoke on behalf of the task force at the HJC All-Coalition meeting via Zoom on March 30 and shared news about the grant.
As a certified health navigator for health coverage programs, Caceres joined Su Casa Indiana through her role as Jackson County United Way bilingual outreach and enrollment specialist. She works with families and individuals to connect them to health coverage, other local resources and financial aid.
Caceres said the Indiana University School of Public Health was awarded a community navigation grant through the Indiana Department of Health to improve community navigation.
“We were awarded this grant for Jackson County along with three other southern Indiana counties so money will be divided amongst those four counties,” Caceres said. “I’m also excited to say Jackson County United Way is partnering with the IU School of Health as a coordination site for this community navigation project.”
One of the key initiatives is community health improvement planning and implementation, which will address COVID-19 health disparities, improve and increase access to testing, preventive and lifestyle physical health, mental health and social support services and expand resources to address basic needs in Daviess, Greene, Jackson and Martin counties. This will be led by Priscilla Barnes with the IU School of Public Health.
“Initiatives for the grant include building resilient and coordinated networks that respond quickly to public health emergencies, strengthening rural infrastructure through our community navigators,” Caceres said.
The initiative also includes improving communications and coordination through visible on-the-ground navigators and empowering underserved and high-risk populations, which goes hand in hand with goal No. 1 of the Health Jackson County CHIP plan — to improve patient navigation in Jackson County.
“We are also in the process of talking with Su Casa Indiana because I think they’ll be a huge part of this, as well,” Caceres said. “So we’re in the process of discussing the best way all of us can come together and get this project started.”
The IU School of Public Health and the Center for Rural Engagement also are helping southern Indiana residents connect to the services they need to live healthier lives in partnership with findhelp.org, a comprehensive networking resource for social care systems.
Caceres said there are a lot of websites with online databases that offer resources and services. Jackson County United Way initially used a referral database called Resource Round Up, but it’s currently transitioning to findhelp.org, available in more than 100 languages.
Community Impact Director Stephanie Strothmann said with findhelp.org, United Way can serve its constituents in a wider area and it’s a very mobile-friendly site and definitely something they’re looking forward to rolling out.
Maci Baurle, executive director of Jackson County United Way, said hoosierhelp.org is findhelp.org for our region.
Together with community leaders, the I-HOPE project team is curating a regional resource for residents by engaging southern Indiana program representatives with the system because many organizations serve people in multiple counties.
“Hoosierhelp.org is a way to help people with dignity and ease,” Barnes said. “This service responds to concerns heard during local community health improvement planning sessions that people didn’t know where to go for help. Data from findhelp.org will assist the team in identifying the resources that community members are utilizing and the gaps in services they may encounter.”
Caceres said CHIP goal No. 2 for the task force, improving cultural competence among HJC community partner organizations, is a big topic, so they don’t expect to solve this with a training or one solution, but rather, it is an ongoing conversation they’ll keep unraveling as they go through and talk about it.
“We’re excited about the training Ana De Gante with Seymour Community Schools will be providing for the task force group in the near future,” she said. “We’re starting with that training, and then hopefully, we can see what cultural competence looks like amongst other organizations in our county.”