By Gregg Fishman.
A few years ago, Plumas County was implementing a plan to improve public health, but like many counties it was short on funds. So Mimi Hall, the Plumas County Public Health Director, started with the idea that if they maximized their existing assets and people, they could improve the health and wellbeing of their 20,000 residents without spending any more money. That remains the premise of the 20,000 Lives initiative. They restructured the way they deliver health services—and in doing so, fostered a level of cooperation, communication and coordination among county departments and throughout the community that is helping people live healthier happier lives. The 20,000 Lives initiative received CSAC’s California Counties Innovation Award for 2016.
The Public Health Agency began hosting meetings that eventually brought together more than 20 organizations and 250 individuals. They included several county departments, law enforcement, education, mental and physical health care providers, non-profits and the local hospitals. The meetings have evolved into a committee structure based on subject matter, and there are also newsletters, email chains and other communication and coordination.
By bringing people together, the 20,000 Lives initiative has shown that in many cases, different organizations are serving the same population and that they could have more impact by coordinating their efforts. And while the focus is on health, the impact goes way beyond that.
For example, the Principal of the local high school had a student who was missing a lot of school days. They could have treated it strictly as a truancy problem, or they could try to find out what the root cause is. As it turns out, there were several factors. The family car was broken down and there was no other way to get to school. There were also some family health issues and the student just didn’t have enough appropriate clothing to wear to school five days a week. The truancy was a symptom of the larger situation that the school couldn’t solve on its own.
Through the 20,000 Lives framework, several different agencies and non-profits worked with the family to help them get the services they need to keep the student in school. In the process, they also helped the rest of the family with other issues. The student is back in school, and the family is leading a better, healthier life because Plumas County’s 20,000 Lives was able to connect them to services that already existed in their county.
The wide-ranging approach of the 20,000 Lives initiative is improving people’s health and wellbeing in some surprising ways. The 130-year-old Olsen Barn sits on 100 acres on the north shore of Lake Almanor, right next to the town of Chester. The barn and property have historic, cultural and environmental significance to the community that might have been lost. The barn needs extensive repair work, and the land itself might have been sold or developed.
Through the 20,000 Lives partnership, Plumas County is working with the Feather River Land Trust, which now owns and protects the land and the barn. Together, they are gathering community input about how these resources should be used in the future and raising funds to restore the barn and further protect the land. By working with the community to save this important resource, the County and its partners are contributing to the health and wellbeing of the community by preserving a source of outdoor recreation and fostering a sense of ownership, involvement and pride.
The 20,000 Lives initiative recognizes that “good health” isn’t just about doctor visits. They are providing that, too, but by going above and beyond the norm, they are enriching the 20,000 Lives in Plumas County.
The Plumas County 20,000 Lives initiative was honored as part of the 2016 CSAC Challenge Awards, which recognize the most innovative best practices developed by California Counties.