April 16, 2019
Support Our Seniors collaboration working to lower suicide rate

ARLINGTON, Texas — Adults age 55 and older in Johnson County have a higher suicide rate per 100,000 people than Texas’ overall rate. A $300,000 grant awarded by Texas Health Resources, as part of the new Texas Health Community Impact initiative, aims to change that statistic and increase access to healthy food.

Seniors in Johnson County, specifically in the 76031 and 76059 ZIP codes, are the focus of the United Way of Johnson County’s Supporting Our Seniors (SOS) project, a multi-sector, multi-system, multi-agency collaboration.

The grant is one of 12 awarded in five regions of North Texas, for a total allocation of $5.2 million.

“The collaboration planned with this grant makes all the difference,” said Aly Engstrom, CEO and President of the United Way of Johnson County.

“We are having to rethink our city boundaries and agency boundaries,” Engstrom said. “By collaborating, we have more resources and volunteers — we are able to address issues that have been identified but not aggressively pursued. Now we truly can ‘get off of the porch’ and make a difference.”

The Texas Health Community Impact initiative is a data-driven, outcome-focused approach.

Leadership Councils found that mental health issues came up again and again during community focus groups and needs assessments.

They layered in data from community readiness surveys and performed windshield assessments, visiting the areas where individuals lacked access to healthy food and were isolated, which leads to depression and physical problems. Living in food deserts (areas that lack healthy food options) can also lead to chronic ailments, such as diabetes and heart disease, that damage the well-being of individuals and entire neighborhoods.

The initiative pinpoints specific ZIP codes with the greatest opportunities to effect change.

“Community Impact is part of Texas Health’s commitment to live our nonprofit, faith-based health system’s mission: To improve the health of the people in the communities we serve,” said the system’s CEO, Barclay Berdan. “It’s said that a person’s ZIP code has a greater impact on their health than their genetic code. That’s why we’re reaching out into the communities we serve and hoping to make a real difference in the health and well-being of people in these areas of North Texas.”

Partners in the Johnson County effort include Keene Seventh Day Adventist Church, East Cleburne Community Center and H.O.P.E Clinic. Others invited to collaborate include Southwestern Adventist University, Hill College, Johnson County Hunger Coalition, Tarrant Area Food Bank, Operation Blessing, Meals On Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties, North Central Texas Council of Governments: Aging Program, Texas Veterans Commission, and the University of WashingtonPEARLS Program. 

The project plans to include, broadly:

  • Home-based services for shopping assistance, counseling and home visitations
  • Community LYFT, a transportation system
  • Evidence-based mental health programs, including PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives) to address depression, and Grief Recovery.

“For the first time in decades, we have churches, universities and colleges, agencies (local and state) and volunteers from throughout the county who are committing to addressing the issues and uniting resources to accomplish a goal that has never been even contemplated until now,” Engstrom said.

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About Texas Health Resources

Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.  

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