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Employee health serves as a crucial underpinning

Tags: Health

Kenneth Wilson, Franklin County, Ohio’s administrator, speaks about county employee wellness at the Healthy Counties Forum last month in Wake County, N.C. Photo by Hugh Clarke

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  • County News Article

    Employee health serves as a crucial underpinning

    When someone is struggling emotionally, a natural reaction is to shut down. And at a time like that, many people find themselves swimming against the current trying to find help. To Kenneth Wilson, the best way to remove the stigma of seeking mental health services during the pandemic was to remove the seeking.

    The Franklin County, Ohio administrator suggested making employee assistance programs more accessible during a workshop April 7 on employee wellness during the Healthy Counties Forum in Wake County, N.C.

    “In high-stress agencies, we started with a pilot where we brought the resources to the employees, versus them having to call in and go on the website,” he said.

    Learn More

    Mental Health First Aid

    “We did it within our animal shelter because of the effect of having to euthanize pets; in our family services agency, where workers hear a lot of sad stuff, and they have their own life issues that they’re dealing with and coping with. I became extremely frustrated because it felt like I was only referring assistance services when someone was in intervention to keep their employees.”

    By changing the county’s healthcare cooperative’s designation to be a health improvement plan, rather than a health benefits plan, Wilson hoped to make the services more appealing as a preventive measure.

    “The culture we want to create is people being proactive in taking care of themselves,” Wilson said.

    “We simply say ‘It’s OK not to be OK.’ Just as simple as that. People have to become comfortable with being able to break the stigmas to receive help and attention.”

    Franklin County uses a web-based wellness application, CredibleMind, which they make available not just to county employees, but residents, too.

    “The barriers to care are not equally distributed, so removing those barriers disproportionately helps those who are in the greatest need,” Wilson said.

    Tramaine El-Amin, of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, suggested help for county employees’ and residents’ mental health was more accessible than it would appear, thanks to the Mental Health First Aid program and its three-day training certification. NACo has partnered with the council to promote the program.

    “We’ve heard some stories because we’ve been working with a number of public health officials nationally to support them through some of the turmoil that happened over the course of COVID-19,” she said.

    “We’ve heard the impact and the challenges, the protests, the threats that they’ve experienced, and did some real support work with them through an initiative we had because we know that it works not just for mental health first aid, but also just supporting county employees to know that they aren’t alone, that there’s a shared experience and that making sure they take care of themselves is most important.”

    The program forms a framework for understanding the signs of mental and emotional distress and how to react.

    “A lot of times, we raise awareness but then what? What do we do after we have a sense that something’s just not right?” El-Amin asked.

    “County employees are the ones who are holding everything together and knowing what to do when no one else knows what to do.”

    “I got to see firsthand what it meant to have something that was tangible, easily accessible and the language was relatable enough that we could train our faith communities, we could train our barbers, we could train our community health workers to really deliver mental health education without having to have the background to actually go and sit on somebody’s couch and charge billable hours,” she said.

    She pointed out that research has shown there is a 10-year gap between the time when someone experiences a mental health challenge and when they receive services and support.

    “We want people to stay within their lane, right, but we want people to make sure that they understand what to do and when,” she said. “But we also want to understand how to support someone either in a crisis situation or non-crisis situation.”

    “Every county is unique, so we want to make sure that counties have the ability to train who they need to — whether that’s adults or youth or schools — whether that’s a ‘train the trainer’ model, where they can train their own instructors so that they can have that sustainability like we did in Philadelphia, or to bring us in to support the workforce themselves and to have that direct training with a workforce focus.

    “It’s really important that we make sure that we act while we have time. The crisis is worsening and I know you all are aware of that, but it also is worsening for our staff and if we don’t take care of our staff, there’ll be no one left to help our community.”

    When Jennifer Henderson started as treasurer for Schleicher County, Texas, she found a box of fitness trackers in her office and learned she was in charge of the county’s wellness program, a responsibility she relished when she found out how robust the program’s offerings were. 

    Working as part of the Texas Association of Counties’ Healthy Counties program (unrelated to NACo’s Healthy Counties Initiative), the program encourages annual wellness exams and offers a variety of self-management programs, awards free fitness center memberships to all county employees and offers tobacco cessation programs.

    But the best benefit, she said, was the incentive to complete a certain number of physical activities every year —full contribution toward their health insurance premiums.

    “It encourages participation and healthy kinds of lifestyle choices,” she said.

    “We even expanded that coverage — we cover 100 percent of dependent children as well. We can’t say that we believe in employee wellness and then see these moms not be able to afford to keep their [children’s] doctor.”

    Counties have noticed the toll the last two years have taken on employees, and are working to bolster wellness options for them. 
    2022-05-02
    County News Article
    2022-05-03
Counties have noticed the toll the last two years have taken on employees, and are working to bolster wellness options for them.

When someone is struggling emotionally, a natural reaction is to shut down. And at a time like that, many people find themselves swimming against the current trying to find help. To Kenneth Wilson, the best way to remove the stigma of seeking mental health services during the pandemic was to remove the seeking.

The Franklin County, Ohio administrator suggested making employee assistance programs more accessible during a workshop April 7 on employee wellness during the Healthy Counties Forum in Wake County, N.C.

“In high-stress agencies, we started with a pilot where we brought the resources to the employees, versus them having to call in and go on the website,” he said.

Learn More

Mental Health First Aid

“We did it within our animal shelter because of the effect of having to euthanize pets; in our family services agency, where workers hear a lot of sad stuff, and they have their own life issues that they’re dealing with and coping with. I became extremely frustrated because it felt like I was only referring assistance services when someone was in intervention to keep their employees.”

By changing the county’s healthcare cooperative’s designation to be a health improvement plan, rather than a health benefits plan, Wilson hoped to make the services more appealing as a preventive measure.

“The culture we want to create is people being proactive in taking care of themselves,” Wilson said.

“We simply say ‘It’s OK not to be OK.’ Just as simple as that. People have to become comfortable with being able to break the stigmas to receive help and attention.”

Franklin County uses a web-based wellness application, CredibleMind, which they make available not just to county employees, but residents, too.

“The barriers to care are not equally distributed, so removing those barriers disproportionately helps those who are in the greatest need,” Wilson said.

Tramaine El-Amin, of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, suggested help for county employees’ and residents’ mental health was more accessible than it would appear, thanks to the Mental Health First Aid program and its three-day training certification. NACo has partnered with the council to promote the program.

“We’ve heard some stories because we’ve been working with a number of public health officials nationally to support them through some of the turmoil that happened over the course of COVID-19,” she said.

“We’ve heard the impact and the challenges, the protests, the threats that they’ve experienced, and did some real support work with them through an initiative we had because we know that it works not just for mental health first aid, but also just supporting county employees to know that they aren’t alone, that there’s a shared experience and that making sure they take care of themselves is most important.”

The program forms a framework for understanding the signs of mental and emotional distress and how to react.

“A lot of times, we raise awareness but then what? What do we do after we have a sense that something’s just not right?” El-Amin asked.

“County employees are the ones who are holding everything together and knowing what to do when no one else knows what to do.”

“I got to see firsthand what it meant to have something that was tangible, easily accessible and the language was relatable enough that we could train our faith communities, we could train our barbers, we could train our community health workers to really deliver mental health education without having to have the background to actually go and sit on somebody’s couch and charge billable hours,” she said.

She pointed out that research has shown there is a 10-year gap between the time when someone experiences a mental health challenge and when they receive services and support.

“We want people to stay within their lane, right, but we want people to make sure that they understand what to do and when,” she said. “But we also want to understand how to support someone either in a crisis situation or non-crisis situation.”

“Every county is unique, so we want to make sure that counties have the ability to train who they need to — whether that’s adults or youth or schools — whether that’s a ‘train the trainer’ model, where they can train their own instructors so that they can have that sustainability like we did in Philadelphia, or to bring us in to support the workforce themselves and to have that direct training with a workforce focus.

“It’s really important that we make sure that we act while we have time. The crisis is worsening and I know you all are aware of that, but it also is worsening for our staff and if we don’t take care of our staff, there’ll be no one left to help our community.”

When Jennifer Henderson started as treasurer for Schleicher County, Texas, she found a box of fitness trackers in her office and learned she was in charge of the county’s wellness program, a responsibility she relished when she found out how robust the program’s offerings were. 

Working as part of the Texas Association of Counties’ Healthy Counties program (unrelated to NACo’s Healthy Counties Initiative), the program encourages annual wellness exams and offers a variety of self-management programs, awards free fitness center memberships to all county employees and offers tobacco cessation programs.

But the best benefit, she said, was the incentive to complete a certain number of physical activities every year —full contribution toward their health insurance premiums.

“It encourages participation and healthy kinds of lifestyle choices,” she said.

“We even expanded that coverage — we cover 100 percent of dependent children as well. We can’t say that we believe in employee wellness and then see these moms not be able to afford to keep their [children’s] doctor.”

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