April 24, 2024

Accessible health care is urgently needed in southwest Idaho

In the report, all 10 counties are identified as “shortage areas” for mental health resources and providers.

IDAHO, USA – Affordable housing, behavioral health and access to affordable health care are the most pressing community health needs in Southwest Idaho, according to a Community Health Needs Assessment.

The Community Health Needs Assessment covered 10 counties: Ada, Elmore, Boise, Valley, Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington.

For the first time in the state’s history, several different health organizations came together to conduct the assessment.

“The key findings of this joint assessment are nothing new,” said Monique Evancic, public information officer South West District Health said. “They are pervasive issues that we are finding time and time again in our area.”

The priorities from this year’s Community Health Needs Assessment are:

  • Safe, affordable housing and homelessness
  • Behavioral health, including mental health and well-being, and substance abuse
  • Access to affordable health care, including oral and vision health

Officials say housing instability can affect a person’s health and their ability to access or pay for health care.

“It’s kind of this domino effect,” Evancic said. “If you don’t have that foundation, the other things in your life will fall by the wayside as well.”

According to the assessment, housing vacancy rates are declining, making it harder for low-income families to find housing. A 4% vacancy rate is “dangerously low,” the report says — and that includes Ada, Canyon and Payette counties.

When it comes to mental health, the report says all ten counties in the report are “shortage areas” for mental health resources and providers.

“There is a huge concern about youth mental health and the ability to seek and receive treatment,” he says. There are also numerous barriers to seeking this care, among other types of health care, such as oral or vision care. According to the report, the majority of Treasure Valley residents do not have access to oral health care.

A Community Health Needs Assessment is conducted every three years in accordance with federal requirements.

“What’s important this time is that this was a joint effort,” Evancic said.

“All these organizations are pooling their resources and creating this joint assessment for the first time,” said Evancic. “So it’s kind of bigger and badder than ever.”

Data for the assessment was collected through community focus groups, interviews with key stakeholders and a community survey.

“There are different ways to collect that data,” Evancic said. “Then they just do it together, and then they’re able to leverage their strengths and their skills to bring more information together that they could do alone.”

That data is now available in the Idaho Oregon Community Health Atlas.

“It’s a web portal, it’s a database and it’s fully searchable,” Evancic said. “So you can do a deep dive into that information and search and pick and choose what you want. This is completely available to the public.”

Hundreds of different data points can be broken down by area in the Health Atlas, and data can be visualized through maps and charts.

“It’s just a wealth of information for public health,” Evancic said.

Now that the Community Health Needs Assessment is complete, the organizations involved will work together to create a Community Health Implementation Plan.

“That’s great that we have the data, so people might be asking, ‘Well, what’s next?’ That’s the piece — the enforcement part,” Evancic said. “So they will work together so that they don’t duplicate efforts, so that they use their resources and their skills, to fight there. That’s the whole point – to fight the these issues.”

The IS The Idaho Oregon Community Health Atlas can be found here.

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