A plan to address three top priorities in improving health in Hill County took another step forward Tuesday.
A consultant says he expects plans of action to be set by February and those actions to follow shortly.
"The actual work of implementation I expect will start in March or April, somewhere in that time frame," Rod Kopp of Strategic Vision Consulting told the Hill County Health Consortium Tuesday.
After conducting an assessment of health problems in the county, a group in August identified some of the greatest concerns and narrowed them down to three top priorities:
• Reducing alcohol and substance abuse.
• Reducing teen pregnancies.
• Increasing support for people with mental health problems.
The people working on the plan now will develop working groups to address each issue, with community members invited to join the three groups, including joining more than one group if desired.
Kopp said involving youth is especially important in addressing issues impacting youth, particularly teen pregnancy. He recommended utilizing social media - using teens to launch and lead the campaign - to reach more teens and young adults as part of the health improvement plan.
The Hill County Health Department, which spearheaded the work on creating the County Health Improvement Plan along with Northern Montana Health Care and the Bullhook Community Health Center, brought in Kopp, who previously had done work for the county health department, to facilitate drafting and implementing the final plan.
The Health Consortium, which proposed the creation of the Bullhook Community Health Center early last decade, has previously worked on health improvement plans for the county. The latest round is in response to a mandate from the Affordable Care Act, which requires certain entities to draft and implement such plans.
Kopp complimented the past work done by the consortium and on its preliminary work on the latest health improvement plan.
Many such plans are done without communitywide involvement of a variety of groups, he said. Often a few health care organizations create plans in isolation, then try to bring those plans together into a comprehensive plan - which often fails.
"You don't always see this kind of engagement ... ," Kopp said. "This is not normal for many communities."
After Hill County Commissioner Jeff LaVoi said the new Hill County drug and DUI treatment courts should be included in the plan to address substance abuse, Kopp agreed.
"The more agencies we can bring in, the better this will be," he said.
The group working on the health improvement plan previously identified as one of its top goals researching what is and has been done locally and out of Hill County to address the three topics of the health improvement plan. That includes actively involving in the health improvement plan local groups and agencies dealing with the issues of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and mental health problems.
Hill County Health Department Director Danielle Golie said at Tuesday's meeting that that includes using and incorporating programs that work, and avoiding programs already tried that have not been successful.
Kopp said the reason the plan has to be narrowed down to a few specific issues is, in the three-year span for which the plan is set, trying to address too many topics leads to failure.
"You can't tackle 10 issues in three years," he said, adding that trying to do so leads to frustration for people trying to address health issues and for members of the community when they fail to see progress.
He said a key will be identifying evidence-based assessments of the problems in three issues being addressed, and in taking action in which the success can be measured, also based on concrete evidence.
Another key will be in communicating with the county residents - Kopp suggested a group be set to present information about the topics, and what is being done to address them and what successes the plan has, to the local community.
Christen Obresley of Northern Montana Health Care said the consortium has such a committee in place and suggested it continue acting as the communications group for the new health improvement plan.
People who want more information about the plan or want to volunteer for the working groups can contact Obresley at 262-1420, Golie at 265-5481, ext. 266, or Bullhook Community Health Center Executive Director Cindy Smith at 265-4541.