NRCHS to introduce new program to help elderlyTelephone Reassurance Program to begin in July
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Nobles-Rock Community Health Services will become the second public health agency in the state to offer an outreach program to the elderly and disabled that will, essentially, check to make sure the individuals are OK each morning.
NRCHS administrator Brad Meyer introduced the “Your Public Health Neighbor” program to board members at their Wednesday afternoon meeting in Luverne. He hopes staff can begin the program by July 1.
The program was developed with the premise that people don’t often know their next door neighbors anymore, and with families living farther away from their aging parents, public health can fill a need that may not be met in the two-county area.
Meyer said the program is open to “anybody who does not have someone that checks up on them daily.”
“We have a large population of single people who are elderly who don’t have regular communication with family or friends,” he added. “It’s a need out there in the community.”
Already, two staff members in the agency have volunteered to provide the free service to the public. The program involves a simple phone call between the hours of 8:30 and 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, with the exception of national holidays and the day after Thanksgiving, when the NRCHS office is not staffed.
Meyer said people interested in signing up for the service should call the agency for more information. Once the program begins, people can either call NRCHS to report they are OK, or the NRCHS staff will contact them. If contact is not made with the individual by 10 a.m., one of two people listed as references will be called to check on the individual.
“I think it’s a good idea; it’s cheap, and it gets our name out there,” Meyer said. “It’s an option for some people, and it wouldn’t cost them anything.”
Board members unanimously approved the program.
In other action, the board:
- Learned that Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday vetoed funding for the Statewide Health Improvement Plan. The veto means community health boards across the state will see funding cuts.
“Each department in the state has to cut 4 percent of administrative costs,” Meyer said. In addition, all programs that receive state grant dollars will experience a 1.7 percent cut in funding. Public health agencies will not get to choose which of their programs will be earmarked for funding cuts, and Meyer said it could be any program from maternal child health to public health preparedness and teens and needy families.
“We are looking at about a $5,600 reduction in our grants,” Meyer said. “It isn’t a whole lot of money, but it’s still a significant amount. When you have a $1.3 million overall budget and 70 percent of the funds come from grants, any amount of money lost in grants is significant.”
- Approved the new job descriptions for six positions within the agency. With two exceptions, the pay grades will remain the same, while the administrative supervisor’s salary will increase and the pay rate for one public health nurse supervisor to decrease slightly due to the loss of the stipend that was established following the departure of the previous NRCHS administrator. All pay grade changes will take effect June 1.
- Received a report from health educator Paula Anderson regarding her work on the smoke-free campaign. Anderson said the six-month visits to bars and restaurants in the two counties have been completed, with a large majority of the business owners providing positive feedback on the law.
Anderson said some of her upcoming projects include promoting the awareness of prescription drug use, teen pregnancy and teen depression, as well as addressing the obesity epidemic.
“What we’ve learned (through tobacco education) is that ‘just say no’ doesn’t work,” she said, adding that policy implementation is much more effective. “We need to learn how to do that with obesity. We just can’t go in and shut down McDonald’s.”
Anderson said people don’t like to exercise, and health leaders need to find a way to get people active.
“It’s like anything,” she said. “If a family exercises, the kids are more likely. If the parents smoke, the kids are more likely.”