Health officials met Tuesday to pinpoint community health concerns and how the county can better serve those needs. The list of concerns took up a whole sheet of paper -- mental health, prevention awareness, accident prevention, and more. Community groups identified these in a recent survey as big issues for Flathead County. Health leaders are listening.
"What we're trying to do is pick out the priorities that contribute at both the community and the statewide level to improving health," said Deputy Health Officer Hillary Hanson.
The Board of Health picked out several of these topics to look at in depth. Dr. David Myerowitz felt access to primary care is a major concern.
"When you have a facility in one building in downtown Kalispell it doesn't serve our very large county," said Myerowitz. "We need to make that type of care available either through rotating clinics or a mobile unit so people have access to care."
According to the survey, an estimated 22 percent of Flathead Valley residents under 65 lack health coverage. What prevents them from seeking care? Homeless and at-risk families said there's a lack of transportation. Even those with health insurance cite financial hardships that prevent them from heading to the doctor.
There aren't solutions yet, but Myerowitz has a few ideas.
"I could even see where you can do home visits with retired nurses or doctors to some of the shut-ins that can't make it into a central space," said Myerowitz.
Board members will take these issues into consideration and look for ways to best spend their money on programs that will have a positive impact on the health of Flathead residents.
"Dollars are not unlimited," explained Bill Burg. "We don't want to repeat what government often does which is continue to spend money on programs that don't work. We want to find out where we can do things that will really make a difference to our community."
To read the Flathead County Community Health Assessment, click here.