Healthy Bladen chipping away at wellness

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County will soon see another $660,000 rolling in through grant money, all of which will be used to benefit the health and wellness of area residents.

The Healthy Bladen Collaborative met Tuesday morning and heard from Carol Strickland, who announced approval for the next three years of the Young Families Connect grant. The grant funds a program that focuses on men and/or women ages 13 to 24 who are pregnant or parenting. The goal of the program is to provide education in order to get participants to reach self-sufficiency and improve parenting and health and wellness skills.

Strickland reported that another health educator position would be added as required by the grant. As part of the program, an April workshop will focus on domestic violence, and monthly meetings with program participants help them move toward their quarterly goals.

“Because of the collaborative and the strong partnerships here, we have a lot of success stories,” Strickland said. “We’ll be sharing those with you soon.”

Marianne Valentiner, health educator with the Bladen County Health Department and chair of the collaborative, reported that 446 Community Health Assessments were completed and the data analyzed. Copies are available on the Health Department’s website, at Bladen Community College, and at all public libraries.

Shayla Yancey, owner of the upstart business DreamWorks Learning Center, located in Elizabethtown, reported that she offers recreational therapy for people up to age 21.

“Recreational therapy activities help people with certain limitations,” informed Yancey. “Our focus is on children with an intellectual or developmental diagnosis. We offer tutoring, recreational therapy consultation, and give recommendations. Therapy can be on an individual or group basis, and it can be a related service.”

Bladen County Manager Greg Martin informed the board that work on the new detention/law enforcement center began Monday and should take 481 days, or around six months, to complete. The Parks and Recreation Department is working on a trust fund grant application.

Bladen Community College Director of Human Resources and Rotary Club member Tiina Munday said that things are moving forward with a Tobacco Free grant, and she informed the board of the Rotary Club’s 8K Trail Run on April 16. The run will take place at 8:30 a.m. at Brown’s Creek, and the proceeds will benefit the USO. Applications are still being accepted.

Lisa Clark, with Lower Cape Fear Hospice, reported that ten volunteers had been recruited from BCC’s recent job fair, but more are still needed.

On Saturday, April 30, a Bladen County Child Abuse Awareness event will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., according to Janet Miller, representative from the Department of Social Services. The walk will begin at San Jose and end at the courthouse, where free food, bounce houses, and other entertainment will be available. Door prizes and a bicycle will be given away. To raise awareness, a pinwheel contest is being held.

“Whoever has the best pinwheel display, either in their window or on their lawn, will win,” said Miller. “We want to decorate the town to bring attention to child abuse.”

Interested persons can submit pictures of their decorations, which will be judged by staff.

“One touching thing from last (year’s walk) was the release of balloons, when they would call out the names of kids who lost their lives to abuse,” said Valentiner. “I was there with my children, and each time a balloon would go up, it was very impactful. It’s a good event to attend.”

Donda Evans, chief nurse with the hospital, reported that they are focusing on increasing education for the staff, especially with the nurses, and they would like to see 50 percent of their nurses moving toward evidence-based practice. One of the nurses is now a certified lactation consultant, and one is moving towards becoming a diabetic educator. The hospital is currently looking into a program that would survey patients in order to ascertain how better to make the transition from hospital to home.

Opiate abuse is on the rise, according to Richard Berg, patient care coordinator with Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear. He encouraged the collaborative to make use of the services he offers for individuals and families who are experiencing problems with substance abuse.

An Innovative Approaches Initiative will begin in June, according to April Oxendine of the Health Department. The initiative aims to coordinate resources for families of children and youth ages 0-21 with special health care needs. They are currently looking to hire a parent interested in working 10 hours per week.

Tobacco League representative Ernest Watts elicited applause when he reported that Bladen County is the only county in which all of the low-income housing apartments have a tobacco policy.

Residents will soon see billboards and hear radio announcements in the area about hypertension and diabetes, thanks to an Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Grant, said Elizabeth Baynor. She also reported that, at the state level, pharmacists had been surveyed about the possibility of becoming hypertension mentors or lifestyle coaches.

Billie Hall, Elizabethtown planning technician, encouraged the collaborative to make use of the 6 miles of trails at Brown’s Creek. She reported that the town is currently working with the Corp of Engineers to release the lock and dam so that the town can make use of it. The town has received $250,000 in the form of a grant to be used to improve Tory Hole. Hall also informed the board that Stephanie Gonzalez from BCC is offering shag classes at the Farmer’s Market and that the town has plans to conduct skateboarding competitions at the skateboard site, which, according to Hall, has been built to competition standards and sees visitors from far and wide. Hall said that a location on Swanze Street is being considered to construct a dog park, a toddler park, and a park with wheelchair-accessible structures.

Valentiner informed the board that Smithfield Foods has reached out to her about investing money in Bladen County.

“They let us know that they want to help and have left it up to us how we want to spend the money. We don’t know the amount yet, but we’ll discuss it at our next meeting,” said Valentiner.

The next meeting for the Healthy Bladen Collaborative will be Tuesday, April 26, at 9 a.m. in the conference room at the Health Department.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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