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Community Health Assessment Report: Mental health, housing, and access to care are biggest concerns

LWVSJ Observer Corps*: San Juan County Board of Health February 22, 2024 meeting

The Board introduced new member Richard Geffen of the Friday Harbor Town Council. The current chair and vice chair Cindy Wolf and Christine Minney were re-elected for 2024. 

Mark Tompkins said the Accountable Communities for Health (ACH), which is working on the next Medicaid waiver under which ACHs, will coordinate care and fund prevention activities in Washington state. Some prevention projects funded by the North Sound ACH will make presentations to the Board of Health in April or May. In March the superintendents of the three County hospital districts will present reports to the Board of Health.

In other committee reports, Cindy Wolf has replaced Jane Fuller as representative to the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization.  Jane Fuller is the new Chair of the Northwest Regional Council, which will have its first Board meeting in April. Richard Jury is the County representative on the regional opioid abatement body that will distribute any funds from opioid settlements.  Jury reported that state legislator Ramel said the state budget will include an additional $150 million this year for behavioral health.

Ellen Wilcox presented an overview of the results of the recently completed Community Health Assessment.  San Juan County has the oldest population in the state and the least affordable housing. Most county residents think this is a good place to live.

The top concerns affecting health identified by the community were mental health, housing, and access to care. Of the 5% of the County population that is Spanish speaking 36% have limited English and this community faces the greatest barriers to getting health care. Women of all ages are far more likely to live in poverty than men in the county. 

Binge drinking and smoking are serious and growing problems. Unreliable ferry transport has made accessing care harder.

The full report can be accessed at: https://sanjuancountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/29397/2023-San-Juan-County-Community-Health-Assessment

The Human Services department reported its 2023 results. Senior Services provided information and assistance to over 1000 County residents and delivered 37,000 hot meals. Dementia is a growing issue needing support services. 

The Community Wellness Program funded mental health counseling for 246 residents. Seventy caregivers got support services and training.

The County was able to provide over $100,000 in extra assistance to schools to address shocking levels of mental health needs among students. Fortunately, student mental health is beginning to improve. 

The County will be looking at ways to access more Medicaid money to serve underinsured residents.

*The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.