Partner Spotlight: Mahoning Valley Community Health Heroes

The Healthy Community Partnership Says Thank You! to Our Community Health Heroes for Their Service During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For our final Partner Spotlight of 2020, it seemed not only appropriate but essential to recognize our partners who have been standing in the spotlight this entire year: our Community Health Heroes.

Powerful image of a healthcare worker keeping a patient above water from Iranian artist Bozorghmehr Hosseinpour.

Our partners in public health and healthcare have been working tirelessly since the COVID-19 pandemic crashed into our communities nine long months ago. Staff from our health departments and hospital systems have become regular fixtures on our screens, offering us fact-based reassuring messages to keep our communities healthy, safe, informed, and connected. And, many have rolled up their sleeves to serve their communities in more direct ways by helping with food distributions or other drive-through resource events.

Designer and illustrator, Alex Tsatsos, created a modern-day Rosie the Riveter to honor today’s heroes, the healthcare workers.

Throughout the year, HCP has offered our support as best we could to our Community Health Heroes. Using the strength and opportunities of our members, HCP leveraged our network to help by collecting and distributing information, amplifying critical safety messages, redoubling our commitment to health equity, and supporting direct service and outreach efforts of our partners within HCP’s focus areas.

With the roll out of vaccines, we are all hopeful that next year will allow us to thaw the feeling of being frozen—by fear or isolation—many of us have been experiencing. But, as our Community Health Heroes would be sure to remind us, we aren’t out of the storm quite yet.

As we share our gratitude and appreciation, we’d like to lift up the reflections on 2020 and aspirations for 2021 from HCP’s Community Health Heroes.

Let’s continue to do all we can to support them since they have done and continue to do so much to support us.

Warren City Health District—Cheryl Strother, Director of Nursing

What is your most memorable moment of 2020?

Cheryl Strother, Director of Nursing, Warren City Health District *Photo taken before 2020

In the midst of the pandemic, the Health Department was able to carry out programming with seniors, and help keep them connected to their families with an iPad giveaway. It was so heartwarming to see their faces and the gratitude to be able to communicate with their families. It was such a privilege to be able to provide that support for our seniors.

What are you most grateful for/proud of accomplishing in 2020?
Even with all the disruptions because of the pandemic, we have been able to continue our clinic functions along with dealing with the pandemic. We have been so thankful for individuals and organizations who are invested in helping  us during COVID-19. Above all, I am thankful and grateful to be healthy, and that my family is safe and healthy.

What do you hope is different about 2021?
My hope for next year is that our community gets through the worst of the pandemic with as few deaths as possible. I really hope to see people begin or continue to take the virus seriously, listen to public health advice, and follow the rules to keep them and others safe.

When we reach December 2021, what do you hope to have achieved?
By this time next year, I hope that we handled the pandemic effectively and offered vaccinations in a timely manner. I would like to see that case investigations and contact tracing were thorough and effective so that we can finally make it through to the end. Like everyone, I hope we can get back to some degree of normalcy, to start going back out into the community to do programing again. I really am eager to be able to get back to hosting community events that people look forward to every year, like Health Fair on the Square, that had to be cancelled. Bringing back those opportunities to come together again as a community would be wonderful.

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Youngstown City Health District—Erin Bishop, Health Commissioner

Erin Bishop, Health Commissioner, Youngstown City Health District

What is your most memorable moment of 2020?
The entire year, especially from the beginning from the pandemic. The support that health department received from Mayor Brown, workers, local clergy, foundations, businesses, hospital, the university, everyone really, has been overwhelming. Everyone quickly understand we are in this together. Not every community has this level of support; Youngstown is very lucky. I’m grateful for the relationship that the city health district has with Mahoning County Public Health, which meant we already had so many players in place. We always look out for each other in the Valley, and the relationships we have are amazing. Especially in hard, tough times, we know you can depend on anyone in the community, which means a lot. Knowing that we’re helping people in need, that we’re making a difference, has kept me going. Even though people were scared, they said they felt heard, listened to, and help was given when needed. The Health Department has been letting people know they’ll be OK and help is available. Even though things were tough and scary, I’ve really loved seeing people at their best and helping others.

What are you most grateful for/proud of accomplishing in 2020?
Getting through the pandemic. We’ve brought pop-up testing events throughout the entire city through partnerships with the Ohio National Guard and local churches. Grateful for CARES Act money to help organizations like Catholic Charities and MYCAP offer relief and help. We also have contact tracers, to help people navigate what to do to keep themselves safe. We’re lucky to have two contact tracers who speak Spanish, which helps people feel a little more comfortable because they are talking with people who speak their language, who understand them, which offers reassurance and puts people more at ease. With everything going on, we’ve always tried our hardest to meet the needs of the community however we can, like picking up and delivering groceries or helping at food and resource distribution events. However we could help, we did.

This also helped us to strengthen or build open, honest, real relationships, specifically with clergy and faith leaders. Their willingness to open up their churches to the community was overwhelming and will continue to be so important as we begin to plan for vaccinations.

The Health Department has also strengthened our relationship with the business community. Businesses owners are calling wanting to know how to do the right thing, to operate safely, to keep their employees healthy.

What do you hope is different about 2021?
I hope to be able to be more present for other events/activities and not completely consumed by COVID-19. Like many people, I hope to be able to get back to doing other outreach efforts like Minority Health Month, home visiting, health fairs, community events that people look forward to every year.

I also can’t wait to be able to have one on one conversations! To be with other people again and spend less time in front of a screen.

When we reach December 2021, what do you hope to have achieved?
I hope that by next year everyone who wants a vaccine will have had it. People will feel comfortable and safe coming to clinics, and that our communication and outreach efforts will be successful. I also hope that people can go to places in their neighborhoods, places they feel safe and comfortable, to get the vaccine. We are hopeful that by working closely with partners they will go as smoothly as testing events. I also want to see the relationships that were built during the crisis stick around and grow stronger.

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Mahoning County Public Health—Ryan Tekac, Health Commissioner

Ryan Tekac, Health Commissioner, Mahoning County Public Health

What is your most memorable moment of 2020?

2020 has been a memorable year since the very beginning! Mahoning County Public Health has prepared for such events by developing plans and participating in tabletop and mock exercises for many years prior to 2020. Even though nothing can  prepare you for a real pandemic, Mahoning County Public Health stood strong in the face of adversity and the fluidity of this pandemic .

What are you most grateful for/proud of accomplishing in 2020?

Mahoning County Public Health is most grateful for the partnerships, teamwork, and the collaboration that has taken place among all partners.  None of the work that has been accomplished this year could have been accomplished by any one agency alone.  It is the work of all the county agencies, townships, cities, villages, healthcare systems, school systems, and local businesses that worked towards keeping our community informed and healthy during this past year.

What do you hope is different about 2021?

In 2021, we will continue educating the community on COVID-19 as the situation evolves and vaccine becomes available. The pandemic has taught us a lot of things and one thing that is evident is that we need to better address health equity and the various social determinants of health in Mahoning County as these were things that left us more vulnerable in 2020.

When we reach December 2021, what do you hope to have achieved?

At the end of 2021, we hope that life can start to resemble our lives, professionally and personally, prior to the pandemic.  Mahoning County Public Health looks forward to the continued partnerships with community leaders in order to build upon a continuum of public health care for residents of Mahoning County.

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Trumbull County Combined Health District—Frank Migliozzi, Health Commissioner

Frank Migliozzi, Health Commissioner, Trumbull County Combined Health District *Photo taken before 2020

What is your most memorable moment of 2020?

The whole year has been a memorable moment in our lives and careers.

What are you most grateful for/proud of accomplishing in 2020?

We are most grateful for the collaboration with many stakeholders to come together during this time of crisis and work together to help protect the residents of Trumbull County during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very proud of the Trumbull County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that has taken every COVID-19 issue head on and developed solutions and assisted with distributing the Strategic National Stockpile of pandemic supplies to those in need. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Trumbull County EOC and dedicated their work to helping to fight COVID-19 and protect Trumbull County residents.

What do you hope is different about 2021?

2021 will be focused on providing COVID-19 vaccine to residents to help stop the spread of COVID-19 throughout Trumbull County. Additionally, we will still be conducting contact tracing and encouraging residents to continue wearing a mask, washing their hands, and practicing social distancing until we feel residents are protected from COVID-19.

When we reach December 2021, what do you hope to have achieved?

We would hope by December 2021 that all residents of Trumbull County are healthy, safe, and protected from COVID-19. And that we have transited back to a more normal lifestyle.

Press Clips

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Mercy Health Mahoning Valley—Bridget Lackey, Community Health Educator  & Doris Bullock, Project Coordinator of Stepping Out

Bridget Lackey accepting recognition for the Mercy Health Produce Box program as a 2020 COVID-19 Hero at AFP’s National Philanthropy Day ceremony

Fruit and Vegetable Rx Program—Bridget Lackey
What is your most memorable moment of 2020?

The most memorable moments are all the patient comments collected throughout the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) Fresh Produce Box program. And the fact that through our community partnerships with RSVP + SCOPE, we were able to deliver to 687 boxes to FVRx patients.

What are you most grateful for/proud of accomplishing in 2020?

Plans were in place for our 2020 Youngstown Farmers Market season when an abrupt shift occurred due to COVID 19 restrictions. People no longer felt safe to attend markets; there were grocery shortages and other limitations. So, through initial funding provided by the Mercy Health Foundation, the Fresh Produce Box model was born. With our relationship with the Lake to River Food Co-op, we were able to create a fresh local produce “box,” which was assembled and a drive thru market was held monthly in each county: in Mahoning at Cultivate Café and in Trumbull County at Perkins Park when the Warren Farmers Market was running, then the SCOPE Center. The program launched in April and ran thru November. We also received $50,000 from the Mahoning County Commissioners, which enabled the Produce Box program to extend into November. Recognizing that some RVRx patients may not be able to make it to pick up their boxes, we collaborated with parters on a delivery service. Parters in this effort were the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Mahoning Valley and the SCOPE Senior Center provided the service for Trumbull County. All in all, this effort was able to serve over 500 individuals, and nearly 100 of those were deliveries each month.

What do you hope is different about 2021?

We hope next year to see better impacts on food insecurity issues facing Mahoning Valley residents. In 2020 we were able to reach 2,726 residents with fresh

Doris and Bridget at a Mercy Health FVRx Produce Box event

produce, which is 65% of those individuals enrolled in the RVRx program.

We also hope that through more concentrated focus on specific food insecurity screenings within our Mercy Heal Practices we will be able to to expand and improve impact. We will achieve this by setting up programs to improve enrollee engagement and tailor program to meet patients’ individual needs.

We know that to accomplish these goals, we need to continue fostering community partnerships. For example, our work with YSU dietetic students to provide specific educational materials, Lake to River Food Co-op to provide produce, and RSVP Mahoning Valley to continue to provide delivery services if needed.

Through these efforts, we hope to be able to provide fresh produce January – December – 12 months of the year not just June -October.

When we reach December 2021, what do you hope to have achieved?

By December of 2021, we’d love to say we reached 75% of patients identified as food insecure and connect them with healthy foods. We’d also love to report significant improvements in chronic disease such as lower A1Cs, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and cancer in Mahoning Valley.

Stepping Out—Doris Bullock

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Mercy Health Holds Fresh Produce Drive-Thru for Patients

AFP Honors Nonprofits, Philanthropists for Pandemic Work

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