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Turtle Mountain Star of Rolla, North Dakota

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Data paints grim picture, survey show

A fair sampling of Rolette County residents responded to a health assessment survey conducted earlier this year and the results pinpointed the drug and alcohol abuse among kids and adults as the primary concerns.

Nearly 600 people from all across the county took part in the survey conducted by Rolette County Public Health. The overall goal was to get a closer look at the needs and concerns of people in the county when it comes to health care.

Those concerns were put on display last week for a group of about 25 people from the health care, law enforcement and public health and wellness fields.

Tiffany Knauf of the UND Center for Rural Health presented the survey results as well as secondary data. She said all the data reflects, "kind of a grim picture." Despite all the dire news, she added that all of the information can allow the county an opportunity to tackle the problems.

"Look at it this way," Knauf said. "We have the data now, so we have some control. We know what's going on and perhaps things will only get better."

Low rankings

Prior to going over the survey results, Knauf dove into data that showed Rolette County's dismal rankings in a number of health categories.

Some of the more startling figures had the county's premature death rate at more than double the state average, sexually transmitted infections at more than three times the state average and children in poverty at more than twice the state average.

All totaled, Rolette County is not meeting the state average or is in the top 10 percent nationally in 22 health and wellness categories.

Knauf said many of the low rankings are directly related to each other. For instance, she said children in poverty may be a result of the area's high unemployment rate, which is almost five times the state average.

"This doesn't mean we can't make improvements," Knauf said.

County survey

A total of 589 people took the

Rolette County public health assessment survey, with the bulk of the responses coming from Rolla Along with Belcourt, St. John and Rolette, the four town accounted for more than 75 percent of the answers collected.

"Rolette County did an amazing job," Knauf said of the response. "We gathered almost 100 more than our goal."

The survey displayed the top four potential concerns among community members as:

Youth drug use and abuse.

Adult drug use and abuse.

Youth alcohol use and abuse.

Youth, sexual health Other primary concerns were alcohol abuse by adults, diabetes and teen pregnancy.

The top community and environmental concerns were lack of high-paying jobs, poverty and not enough affordable housing.

People filling out the surveys also expressed concerns about the area's health services. The most mentioned issues revolved around the area's inability to retain doctors and nurses, the cost of health insurance and the availability of medical specialists. Knauf said the two survey categories expressing the most public concern dealt with physical, mental and substance abuse and youth and children.

"These areas received a lot of high votes," Knauf said. "The top six or seven concerns overall were from the youth and children category."

At the top of both those categories were issues involving drugs and alcohol abuse.

Beyond the data

At the end of Knauf's presentation, she asked everyone present to select their top five areas of concern out of 22 potential community health needs identified by the survey along with the state and national rankings.

The top five, in order, were:

1. Elevated rate of excessive drinking among youth and adults.

2. Lack of activities and services for youth.

3. Drug use and abuse among youth and adults

4. Lack of collaboration within the community.

5 (tie).High unemployment rate.

5 (tie).Limited number of health care providers and mental health access.

The group discussed each need and offered up specific concerns as well as ideas to potentially deal with the issues.

Throughout those discussions, it was evident that the county has more needs than resources available. In terms of the top concerns related to alcohol, the frustration revolved around a perceived "social acceptance" which Knauf identified as more of a "family and community issue."

With all the data gathered, Knauf said she will work with Rolette County Public Health to complete the project by visiting in the future. She said the next steps include finding activities to implement and identifying potential resources and grants to combat the county's issues.

Another benefit of the survey is that it will allow RCPH to better direct its programming. It will also help the agency become accredited, which could open the door to increased funding through grants.

Copyright 2015 Turtle Mountain Star, Rolla, North Dakota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 2, 2015

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