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Assessment shows community concerned about county’s behavioral health

The 2013 County Health Rankings list Boone County as the sixth healthiest county in Missouri. However, the Community Health Assessment released on Friday from the Boone County Health Department shows five areas the county needs to work on.

Those strategic issues include safe and healthy neighborhoods, promoting healthy lifestyles, providing access to health care, diminishing health disparities and behavioral health.

ABC 17 dug into the report and found out it surveyed adults and teens, both of which, showed strong concern about behavioral health, including drug abuse. It actually ranked in the top two factors that they believe impact overall community health.

Behavioral health involves anything from drinking alcohol to smoking. A prevention specialist at Phoenix Health Programs agrees with the results of the assessment. She told ABC 17 that’s because behavioral health is the foundation of all health.

“(The fact that ) drug abuse has been consistently listed as a concern for health from our residents in our area in Columbia and Boone County doesn’t surprise us at all,” said Heather Harlan, a prevention specialist at Phoenix Health Programs.

That’s because Harlan says people who have behavioral health problems tend to neglect their physical or mental health.

“For example, diabetes or hypertension, they might not be flossing their teeth, and they’re not going to those regular check-ups and making sure they have a primary care doctor,” Harlan said.

That’s why Andrea Waner with the Boone County Health Department said behavioral health is one of the top five issues for the county.

“We’re working with neighborhood watch associations, the Columbia Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, and various neighborhood activists and things like that,” Waner said. “Basically, anyone that has a stake hold or is a stakeholder, we’re working with them because we realize that the health of the community depends on more than just your local health department.”

Those conversations led to the use of four assessments that determined the five areas of improvement. Waner told ABC 17 the assessment does not show that Boone County is generally healthy or not but rather pinpoints areas of growth.

“We’ve come a long ways, but we still have a long way to go,” Waner said. “There are a lot of issues we need to address. We’ve done all of the research, we’ve met with all of the necessary groups and identified all of the necessary steps, so now it’s just a matter of taking action and getting it done.”

Waner said the department will have those plans finished by the summer to begin work. That’s when they’ll have measurable objectives to guide them throughout the next three years.

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