SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Health Department released its annual report for fiscal year 2016, detailing the upward trend in behavioral health needs and other services within the community.
In 2016, services provided through the health department increased 11 percent.
These services, which jumped from 95,890 to 106,700, encompass a wide range of needs from flu shots to dental services, according to Jennifer LaMade, director of planning, quality and core service. However, the department has recognized an uptick in the number of clients requesting services for mental health and substance abuse disorders.
In fiscal year 2016, 1,449 individuals sought these behavioral health services from the department.
“We are in the middle of a heroin epidemic,” LaMade said. “So we certainly have been doing more outreach and are being more accessible to clients.”
In an effort to service the community, LaMade said the health department has partnered with the Board of Education to train teachers to recognize mental health and substance abuse problems within the school system.
This program, Youth Mental Health First Aid, trained 70 school staff and community members in 2016.
In another one of its programs, the Crisis Response Team, health officials received calls from 470 Worcester County citizens for emergency behavioral health needs.
LeMade said two of the health department’s four main goals are to improve access to health care and promote behavioral health. The other two focus on health lifestyles and communicable diseases.
Plans to reach these goals were outlined in the department’s five-year Community Health Improvement Plan in 2012.
Although the plan is an ongoing action through 2017, LaMade said the county will not reach its behavioral health goals for many years.
“I can’t say we have met our goal because it will take at least a decade,” she said. “But we are working with the community to recognize needs that we haven’t before.”
This year, the health department held four different meetings with community members to identify the residents’ priorities regarding health, according to LaMade.
This outreach, entitled “Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership”, gathered responses from 452 residents and health professionals in Worcester and Wicomico Counties.
LaMade said these responses will help pinpoint the area’s strengths and weaknesses, and the department will focus on these priorities after the calendar year.
Currently, the department accommodates its behavior health goal with walk-in appointments, flyers and events. The goal of each of these services is to break the social stigma of mental health and substance abuse disorders, according to LaMade.
“I think we are getting closer,” she said.
In fiscal year 2016, 474 people received naloxone training, an emergency treatment method for overdose, and 391 participants with the Out of the Darkness walk raised more than $23,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Some of the proceeds raised from the walk will go to local prevention services and needs.
“We have been trying to promote behavioral health,” LaMade said. “We do a lot of research for that.”
Public Information Officer Travis Brown said this was the health department’s first year in providing a detailed report of this nature, but said officials wanted to try something different for the public.