HANCOCK COUNTY — Twenty minutes is all it takes to impact the overall health of Hancock County.
Hancock Health is inviting county residents age 14 and over to take a 20-minute online survey to help assess the current health needs in the county, now through Feb. 28.
Indiana requires that all counties present a Health Needs Assessment every three years, mapping out a three-year plan of how to best facilitate changes that address needs and impact services in each county.
For years Hancock Health has served as the facilitator for Hancock County — conducting the survey, tabulating the results and reporting the findings to the state legislature every three years.
The last assessment was done in 2019, when respondents listed mental health care at the top of the list of needs in Hancock County.
Hancock Health responded by launching a number of local initiatives, including the creation of the RISE Recovery and Wellness Clinic and hiring navigators who work with county jail inmates to help them transition back into the community.
The Hancock Health Foundation also launched a campaign to raise $3.5 million to create an endowment for mental health care, designed to fund local mental health initiatives in perpetuity.
“These are the types of initiatives that have come out of prior health needs assessments,” said Teri Gottschalk, who promotes the assessment as Education Support Navigator for Healthy 365, a division of Hancock Health.
Local nonprofits, churches, youth and health organizations collaborated to come up with the questions on this year’s survey.
Hancock Health president and CEO Steve Long said the assessment is essential in guiding the health organization’s future.
“We have built our entire population health initiatives on the back of the community health needs assessment,” said Long, “because we want to know that what we do as an organization is targeted to the needs that have been identified within our community by the people who live here.”
Long pointed out that the top two needs identified in 2019 were mental health and substance abuse and recovery resources.
New initiatives like the RISE clinic — which stands for resilience, individualized care, safe space and empowerment — are a direct result of that assessment, he said.
“The assessment really helps drive what we’re doing as an organization,” said Brian Muckerheide, president of Hancock Physician Network.
While respondents don’t win any freebies for taking the survey, Gottschalk hopes people are motivated to devote 20 minutes to helping shape the future of healthcare in Hancock County — for themselves, their families and future generations.
Since the online survey launched in mid-December, 139 people had responded as of 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 29.
“That’s pretty good considering the holidays, but we’re really hoping to get a widespread response from as diverse a group as possible,” Gottschalk said.
The survey is available 24/7 online, and printed versions can also be found in public places like pharmacies and libraries throughout the county.
Surveys must be submitted by Feb. 28, at which point Hancock Health officials will begin tabulating the results and creating a plan for the county to address those needs from 2024-2026.
“Part of that plan will be revisiting the needs from the 2020-2022 assessment and providing progress that we’ve made in those areas that were identified three years ago,” said Gottschalk, who said the Hancock Health board of directors will review and approve the proposed plan next fall before presenting the findings to the state legislature in January 2024.
Gottschalk said the assessment is a great opportunity for each person in the county to make their voices heard.
“This is kind of an opportunity to express what their concerns are and what their barriers are to being healthy and happy,” she said. “We want to know what people feel like they need to live their best life, so we can make our community the best possible place to live that it can be.”
To take the Hancock County online health assessment, visit SurveyMonkey.com/r/hancockchna2023.