Rural areas get aid from DHHS

Jun. 18, 2014 @ 06:42 PM

CREEDMOOR — A renewed state focus to grow economic development in rural areas is impacting the Tri-County — particularly Vance and Granville counties.

As the national economy recovers from the recession, government agencies — like the state Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in North Carolina — are highlighting resources and services to rural regions significantly affected by the economic downturn.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos and her staff held a question-and-answer session at the state’s first youth mental health first aid training event for teenagers ages 16 to 18 years old at Vance-Granville Community College’s southern campus Wednesday, sponsored by Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions.

The Mental Health First Aid program is a key component of the state’s Crisis Solution Initiative, which aims to improve crisis prevention services and reduce emergency department use and wait times for psychiatric and addiction treatment placement.

The department has already held a mental health training event in Vance County at Perry Memorial Library last month.

“It is critical,” Wos said. “One of the reasons is that we really have a shortage of health care professionals. Programs such as this are critical because sometimes it’s that first interaction with a person that needs someone to extend their hand or someone to just offer assistance or make sure they are okay.”

Vance and Granville counties are also part of a new pilot rollout program called Crossroads that turns the paper-based Women, Infants and Children program system in to an electronic one.

North Carolina was selected by the federal government to be the lead state of a four state consortium, according to Kristi Clifford, a health and human services department press assistant.

Vance and Granville counties are two of seven counties in North Carolina to launch this system first.

Women, Infants and Children, more commonly known as WIC, is part of the Food and Nutrition Services branch of the department and is funded by the USDA.

The program is for children up to five years of age, infants, pregnant women, breastfeeding women who have given birth in the last 12 months and women who have given birth in the last six months.

It provides healthy foods, health care referrals, breastfeeding support and eating tips.

According to data from Vance County, the state’s Food and Nutrition Services branch, the average number of individuals on active cases from January through April was roughly 14,700 people.

U.S. Census Bureau data estimated Vance County’s population at around 44,800 in 2013.

This means about one-third of Vance County’s population was receiving some assistance from the local Food and Nutrition Services branch of DHHS since the beginning of this year.

Wos said women, especially those who have just given birth, need ways to get access to knowledge, care and people they can rely on.

“That is their safety net, in a way, if they don’t know who to speak to or do something,” she said. “In the rural areas, because of geography, that is critical.”

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.