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It boils down to kindness
Health Department programs help those in need
new_deh_county commission graphic.pdf
This graphic explains the Riseup initiative being undertaken by the Barton County Health Department.

It may sound overly simple, but Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider told the County Commission Monday morning that a lot of what her department does boils down to providing a glimpse of hope for those in need and treating them with the respect they deserve. She offered this assessment as she gave a report on the myriad grant-funded programs managed by her department.

The department has only 21 employees. “So, how do we make change happen?” she asked.

“Basically, it’s to model how we treat others,” she said. By being mentors and through the various programs, the limited staff can reach as many as possible.

The department is also collaborating with local partners on #RiseUp to build a resilient community, she said, adding the mission is for “healing, hope and understanding. We can start instilling that level of kindness. Everybody deserves kindness.”  

Offering a leg up

“The Health Department has had the privilege of applying for some competitive grants in the past and have been awarded some of these grants,” Schneider said. 

One of these was the Lifting Young Families Towards Excellence. It is a short-term grant awarded last fall and ends June 30.

“We have a pretty quick turnaround on this funding,” she said. However, if it goes well, there is a chance it will be available next year, too.”

It is for males and females under the age of 24 who are or soon will be parents. “It is to help them to see a future for themselves and their families,” Schneider said.

It also helps them get the lives they planned prior to a pregnancy, such as going to college, back on track so previous aspirations can be achieved. “This program allows those people to come and regain some of that hope.

In that regard, she said the department will also be applying for the Teen Pregnancy Targeted Case Management program. 

“The state has encouraged us to apply for that grant,” Schneider said. The county unsuccessfully tried for this a couple years ago.

The goals of this are to provide comprehensive case management services to Kancare-eligible pregnant and/or parenting adolescents, reduce negative consequences of teenage pregnancy teens and their children, increase levels of self sufficiency and delay subsequent child-bearing.

There is talk in the nation about the reduction in teen pregnancies, she said. While true nationally, “it is still high locally. It is coming down slowly and with programs like these, we are going to continue that decreasing trend. We are doing a lot of work in this area.”  

“We are also, again, a satellite office for the Children with Special Health Care Needs. Barton County serves 12 counties for this program.”

In general, this provides case management for children and youth with special health-care needs 21 and under. It fulfills special requests for needed items needed not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance, but is the “absolute last resort for needed items.”

These are all grant-funded and there is not tax money involved, she said. But, “it is such a good thing to get these kind of services in Barton County.” 

Other initiatives

Schneider said they would like to start a peer mentoring volunteer program. This way, those who have completed these programs could come back and work with current enrollees. 

“People understand what other people are going through,” she said. 

All these programs could also mesh with ongoing efforts, such as the Circles of Central Kansas, to help reduce poverty, she said. 

Barton County is seeing more poverty and a little more homelessness, higher crime rates and more drug use, she said. “What is our role as a Health Department” in addressing these public health crises ranging from opioids to teen pregnancies to poverty.

“It’s programs like these that make me believe in local government,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “But, as local government, we can’t do everything ourselves and it is really nice to see that the state is recognizing that we need a little help so we can help the people in our county.”

“The state has really stepped up to the plate and has listened,” Schneider said. The county belongs to the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, an organization that “unifies our voices” so they are heard in Topeka.

New Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman will “really be a warrior for public health,” she said.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Signed off on the inventory of county property.

Each County officer and department head makes an annual inventory of the personal property owned by the county in the departments. The inventory, which takes place in December, is filed with the County Clerk by year’s end. This excludes books, records, files, stationery, writing materials and blank legal papers. The information is presented to the commission during February of each year. The Information Technology Department heads up the effort, said IT Director John Debes and equipment technician Chris Saenz.

• Appointed Wilmer Wegele to the Memorial Parks Advisory Committee. The committee is charged with advising and assisting the commission regarding the care and maintenance of the Barton County owned and operated memorial parks and cemetery. With not less than five, nor more than seven members, there was one uncompensated position open, terming in July 2021.

• Heard a program update from Health Director Shelly Schneider.

• Heard a departmental update from County Administrator Phil Hathcock.