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BLOOMINGTON — The first year of a three-year journey to a healthier McLean County has resulted in improvements ranging from adding outside counselors to work with students in several schools, increasing the capacity of health clinics that serve the poor and making access to healthy foods easier.

McLean County's first Community Health Improvement Plan was approved in February 2017. The McLean County Community Health Council, which oversees the plan, approved a first-year progress report Thursday during a meeting at the McLean County Health Department.

The council represents 13 health organizations, human services and economic development agencies, schools and cities.

"I'm very pleased with where we are," Cathy Coverston Anderson, health department assistant administrator, said after the meeting.

The members of the health council's executive committee are Coverston Anderson; Sally Gambacorta, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center community health director; Meridith Nelson, OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center director of strategic planning and community health; and Katie McHugh, health department health promotion program manager.

Previously, the health department, BroMenn and St. Joseph completed separate community health needs assessments. They decided a joint effort would be better.

That assessment was completed in August 2016 and identified mental illness and substance abuse, lack of access to health care among people in some areas of Bloomington and obesity as the top three county health needs.

A three-year plan to address those needs was approved a year ago. Since then, several organizations have been working to implement the plan.

Among mental health highlights in the past year, Gambacorta said, have been counselors from Center for Human Services and Chestnut Health Systems working with students in Olympia and Ridgeview schools; Chestnut Health Systems, in conjunction with the hospitals and health department, training 12 instructors from a variety of organizations on how to work with children who have experienced adverse childhood events; and offering more Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid training.

"Due to great collaboration in the county, there were a lot of significant improvements in this area," Gambacorta said.

Access to health care highlights, Nelson said, have included increasing the capacity of health clinics that serve the poor; a Community Health Care Clinic and hospital program encouraging emergency department patients to get a primary care provider; and increasing access to dental care through the health department.

Obesity responses, McHugh said, have included distributing food not sold at the downtown Bloomington farmers market to people in need on Bloomington's west side; establishing the Food Farmacy at Home Sweet Home Ministries for community clinic patients; and St. Joseph and BroMenn distributing food from their community gardens to the community clinic and Home Sweet Home.

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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