Study indicates need for behavioral facility

by Clay Neely -

One-fifth of Coweta residents are currently uninsured, while nearly 30 percent of high-schoolers reported feeling sad or hopeless, with 8 percent attempting suicide. These recent reports are according to a community health assessment study by Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

In addition, nearly one-third of the county's population is considered obese, and the poor mental health ranking is higher than state and national averages.

The findings listed were part of an assessment known as CHNA - Community Health Needs Assessment - completed in an effort to better understand the health and related challenges Coweta residents are facing.

Once the needed information was collected, the Piedmont Newnan Hospital then identified the top priorities of the community and have been working to create a strategy to address those needs.

'Coweta County's population is booming,' officials wrote in the report, noting that between 2000 and 2010, the population of the county has jumped by 43 percent to about 129,000 people.

The median household income is $61,550 per family, which is about $10,000 more than the state average. However, nearly half of all children qualified for free school lunch in 2010, and nearly 15 percent of children lived in poverty that year.

In addition to the finding that one in five adults in Coweta County did not have insurance in 2012, the Piedmont study found that of those who are insured, about 11 percent rely on Medicaid.

Of the privately insured, an estimated one-third is likely underinsured, or has been found to have spent at least 10 percent or more of annual income on health care, including copays, deductibles and prescriptions.

Another key health finding was the prevalence of poor mental health in the community, noting that throughout 2013, Coweta County adults will have reported 3.7 poor mental health days each month, according to the County Health Rankings.

'This is higher than both state and national averages,' Piedmont officials stated in the report. 'Over the last five years, mental and behavioral disorders were the seventh leading cause of emergency department visits. This is an aggregate and does not include the ramifications of violent outbursts, such as assault.'

'Twenty-nine percent of high schoolers reported having been sad or hopeless in 2009, with 8 percent attempting suicide while 14 percent made a plan as to how they could, even if not attempted,' officials stated in their findings. 'Suicide was the third-leading cause of premature death over a five-year aggregated period.

It was the leading cause of premature death for those aged 15 to 19, and is prevalent among those between the ages of 25 to 44 (as the second leading cause of premature death), those 20 to 25 and 45 to 54 (as the third leading cause of premature death).'

The state of Georgia recently denied a Certificate of Need for the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital, despite the multiple endorsements of many state and community leaders of Coweta, including Dr. Jeffrey Folk, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Piedmont Newnan Hospital, the Coweta Commission on Veterans Affairs and the Newnan Police Department among many others. The denial cited a lack of need and duplication of existing services.

Unhealthy behaviors are also prevalent in Coweta County, with 18 percent of the county's adult population reporting the consumption of nicotine by way of smoking. This figure is higher than the national average of 14 percent.

One in four adults is notably physically inactive, and close to one in three is considered obese. Access to healthy foods is an issue.

'About 16.5 percent of the population does not live within close proximity of a grocery store that sells fresh fruit and vegetables,' officials wrote in their findings.

The data collected showed that contributors to the obesity and inactivity rates could be influenced by the fact that half of the restaurants in the area serve fast food. A lack of recreational facility access in the area was also found with only nine facilities per 100,000 residents, according to officials.

Through this process, the hospital identified three priority issues for the Coweta community.

The first priority issue for the community, according to the CHNA, will be increased access to necessary and appropriate care for uninsured and underinsured patients.

'Piedmont will aim to develop an emergency department care coordination program that will target preventable encounters including those led by underlying mental health issues,' officials said in their report.

The second priority will be reducing preventable readmissions and emergency department re-encounters. 'Piedmont Newnan Hospital is committed to reducing preventable readmissions and emergency department re-encounters,' officials said in their report, 'as to ensure community members have the necessary tools and education to better self-manage their health and to stay out of the hospital unnecessarily.'

The hospital aims to utilize the department care coordination program in an attempt to help curb preventable emergency room re-encounters and to develop a patient care selfmanagement coordination program. 'The program will focus on the emergency department and admission discharge planning, including those with limited health literacy,' said officials in their report.

The final priority issue for the hospital will be attempting to reduce rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes. 'Piedmont Newnan Hospital is committed to helping community members achieve and maintain a healthy weight,' representatives wrote. 'Over the next three years, in partnership with the community coalition, we will do this through a multi-faceted approach.'

Piedmont Newnan seeks to create a comprehensive antiobesity program to help foster healthy lifestyles for individuals and families who are obese or at risk of becoming obese. The program will be composed of four components: assessment, nutrition, physical activity and monitoring/evaluating.

'Additionally, we will continue to support our core community benefit programs, including the financial assistance to low-income, uninsured patients,' officials wrote. The hospital also remains dedicated to 'health professions education, family health and safety education referrals to community services, workforce development, community-based health education programs and health screenings.'

'Piedmont Newnan Hospital will be initiating the development of implementation strategies for each health priority identified by the community health needs assessment conducted in Fiscal Year 2013,' officials wrote in their evaluation.

'The implementation plan will be executed over the next three fiscal years, and will contain measures to monitor and evaluate program effects in order to ensure that our programs are making a difference in our communities,' they said.

The Piedmont Newnan Hospital CNHA was conducted by a gathering of publicly available health and socioeconomic data, using sources such as the U.S. Census, the U.S. Health and Human Services' Community Health Status Indicators, County Health Rankings and Georgia Online Analytical Statistical Information System (OASIS).

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