ON THE GROW: Healthy365 continues to expand and thrive six years after its inception

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Connor McCarty is the new justice navigation coordinator at Healthy365.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — Amanda Hinkle marvels at how much the Healthy365 program has grown since its inception six years ago.

“We’re filling several new positions as we expand our focus and continue to grow,” said Hinkle, who manages the program that is designed to enhance the overall well-being of Hancock County residents.

“It’s exciting and is keeping us on our toes, that’s for sure,” she said.

The program was formed in 2016 when a group of community leaders gathered to discuss how the initiative could best help the community. What started as a grassroots effort has blossomed into a far-reaching collaboration designed to enhance community health in a number of ways.

“In 2016 we were just an initiative, and now we’re our own department of the hospital. We never in our life thought that we’d be able to have a brick and mortar building, but now we have our own walls and our own staff and are able to help lots of people,” said Hinkle, who has been with the program since the beginning.

In February 2020 the program moved out of the Hancock Health Foundation offices in the hospital and into its own space at 120 W. McKenzie Road, called the Healthy365 Connection Center, in a building shared by Hancock Counseling & Psychiatric Services in Greenfield.

Since then, the center’s staff and programming has continued to grow. Three resource navigators were gradually hired to help direct people toward various resources within the county, from employment to healthcare to food and housing.

“Since the Connection Center opened in 2020 we’ve had nearly 1,500 referrals come through our door for support navigation, and we are now trending at an upswing of about 70 referrals a month,” said Hinkle.

“It goes to show people are hurting now more than ever and are willing to move in the right direction of seeking help, support and guidance.”

Navigating life after jail

Hinkle is especially excited about Healthy365’s latest expansion, the hiring of a justice navigation coordinator — Connor McCarty — who will help people released from jail transition back into the community.

“He’ll be able to navigate them with whatever needs that they have,” said Hinkle. “For example, when someone comes out of jail, oftentimes they don’t have insurance anymore, and they may need to be set up with a doctor or get their prescriptions set up.”

McCarty will work closely with Crystal Petty, a resource navigator hired by the Hancock County Jail to work with inmates as they prepare for life outside of jail. Both started work June 20.

Hinkle said it was just good luck that the two navigators were hired and trained at the same time, as a team effort between the jail and the hospital.

“These are both new programs, so by having them start at the same time and train together we’ll be able to create the program from scratch and work together to figure out how it’s going to work,” she said.

Hinkle said McCarty and Petty will work in tandem to make a positive impact on those looking for a healthy start after incarceration, which will hopefully reduce the rate of recidivism.

“When people are not connected with the appropriate support and services they need to be successful, often they end up back in jail,” said Hinkle. “They often don’t know where to go or where to begin, and have broken a lot of ties with family and friends. That’s why we want to get people on the right path, and the support navigator can help do that for them.”

Growing to serve

Steve Long, president of Hancock Health, said the new justice navigation program is just one more way Healthy365 is growing to serve the needs of the community.

“It’s amazing when you look back to where (the program) started six years ago. I don’t think any of us anticipated that it would grow to where it is today, and that the collaboration we see happening in the community would be as robust as it is,” he said.

Long praised community partners who have stepped forward to partner with Healthy365 in making the community as healthy as possible.

“I think that what’s unique and maybe unusual in Hancock County is we’re all aiming for the same thing,” said Long. “We all care about people, and we’re all trying to find out how we can achieve the best outcome for everyone.”

Long thinks the addition of a justice resource navigator is a great addition to the department’s resource navigation program.

Healthy365 has also collaborated with local justice system leaders to create the Healthy Community Response Collaborative team, which includes a mobile response team of healthcare workers who can respond to needs in the community, including joining law enforcement on emergency calls involving mental health issues.

In February, Healthy365 launched the RISE Recovery and Wellness Clinic, which is managed by Hancock Counseling and Psychiatric Services, another division within the Hancock Health family.

RISE — which stands for Resilience, Individualized care, Safe space and Empowerment — has taken 30 referrals so far.

Ben McAllister, doctor of osteopathic medicine with Hancock Counseling and Psychiatric Services, has said the clinic addresses not only substance use but also provides mental health treatment for conditions like depression and anxiety, which often coincide with substance abuse disorder.

Long credits Hancock County Commissioner Marc Huber for sparking the RISE initiative.

“Marc called me up and said we want to do something that has a meaningful and lasting impact on mental health and substance abuse. It was him who started it, and we took that job and ran with it,” said Long, who worked alongside Huber, Greenfield City Councilman Jim Shelby and Hancock County Sheriff Brad Burkhart to garner support for the program.

Long said offering substance abuse treatment and counseling is a necessary component to improving overall community health.

Substance abuse “is a huge issue everywhere, and Hancock County is not excluded from that,” he said.

Because substance abuse has been proven to lead to trouble with the law and even jail time for many, Long said enhancing local substance abuse resources can eventually mitigate overcrowding in the county jail.

By providing substance abuse and mental health resources, “I think this could probably do more to fend off future overcrowding in the new jail than just about anything we could do,” he said.

Forward momentum

Hinkle said Healthy365 is guided by an ongoing community health needs assessment which was last disseminated to the public in 2020.

Based on that assessment, “we are trying to put our focus where it is needed most,” said Hinkle, who looks forward to whatever the future may bring.

The next step is supporting the Hancock Health Foundation, she said, as it strives to raise $3.5 million to create an endowment to sustain local mental health and substance abuse resources into the future.

To learn more about Healthy365 and its various initiatives, visit BeHealthy365.org.

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