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Cascade County Community Health Symposium
Healthy Lives, Vibrant Futures
Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.
Every three years, the Healthy Lives, Vibrant Futures (HLFV) Coalition distributes a Community Health Needs Survey and invites county residents of all backgrounds to have a voice in the priorities of local organizations working to improve community health. The survey results were shared with the community at a community health symposium on January 27, 2022. Feedback and discussion at this year’s symposium were used to develop a Community Health Improvement Plan to guide coalition work over the next three years. The health assessments and improvement plan from prior years can be viewed here. Health issues that were identified as priorities in recent years include accessing healthcare, maintaining a healthy weight, addressing substance abuse, and addressing child abuse and neglect. The 2022 HLVF Cascade County Community Health Symposium was held virtually as a precaution during COVID-19 surges, with a recorded presentation and opportunities to provide feedback were available the day after. All members of the public were invited to participate free of charge. We are excited to provide this opportunity for all members of the community to have a say in developing the priorities of the coalition members so that resources can effectively utilized in address the most critical community health concerns.
How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?
According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Study, 43 percent of youth drank alcohol before age 14, 19 percent engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days, 23 percent used marijuana in the past 30 days, and 57 percent have used alcohol in their lifetime. Between 2017 and 2019, the annual average prevalence of past-year alcohol use disorder in Montana was 7.9 percent (or 70,000), similar to the regional average (6.9 percent) but higher than the national average (5.3 percent). Drinking and driving in Montana has one of the highest fatality rates in the nation for number of deaths caused by impaired drivers per vehicle mile traveled. Data from 2020 indicate that 66 percent of all fatalities were the result of impaired driving, which is up from 58 percent during 2019 (2021 Montana Department of Transportation). In 2015, healthcare costs related to opioid abuse in Montana reached $49,737,028. An estimated half of all drug overdose deaths in Montana involved opioids (a total of 64) (2018 NIH). Between 2017 and 2019, the annual average prevalence of past-year substance use disorder in Montana was 10.1 percent (or 90,000), similar to the regional average (9.4 percent) but higher than the national average (7.4 percent). Among local Great Falls high school students, 42 percent reported using marijuana in 2021 and, of those, 26 percent starting using marijuana before age 14 (2021 GFPS YRBS).
What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?
- Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
- Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
- Improve policy/legislation (e.g., reducing alcohol advertising to which youth are exposed; instituting, promoting, or increasing alcohol compliance checks; improving
- Awareness and enforcement of social host laws) to support prevention of underage drinking
- Encourage community and local businesses to implement measures to prevent underage drinking (e.g., restricting or decreasing sales of alcohol at community events; conducting responsible beverage service training)
What challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?
- Adapting to conducting a virtual activity
How did you overcome these challenges?
The coalition planned worked together to ensure the symposium was held live on January 27 and the recordings were available the following day. We decided to add in a scavenger hunt at the mall which the community was able to participate throughout February.
What are your next steps?
- Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
- Support new prevention policies, legislation, or social ordinances
Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?
The HLVF Coalition is composed of nonprofit and government entities in Cascade County, including United Way of Cascade County, Indian Family Health Center, the Cascade City-County Health Department, Benefis Health System, Alluvion Health, and Alliance for Youth. We are excited to provide this opportunity for all members of the community to have a say in developing the priorities of the coalition members so that resources can effectively utilized address the most critical community health concerns.
Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?
Our original plan was to host the symposium at a local mall. However, the 2022 HLVF Cascade County Community Health Symposium was held virtually as a precaution during COVID-19 surges. The day after, the recorded presentation and opportunities to provide feedback were made available to the public. Prize drawings were awarded at the end of February for anyone who provided feedback or participated in the HLVF scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt too place at the Holiday Village Mall and during the month of February. Winners were contacted directly and announced on Facebook.