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Quauylor Brown, left, of Madison and Forrest Bailey of Baraboo head to the 3-point line after talking with Nigel Hayes during last year's Teen Summit at Baraboo High School. Results from Sauk County's Community Health Needs Assessment Survey led healthcare leaders to hold the mental health awareness event with the Boys & Girls Club. 

Past community health surveys have shown Sauk County residents need improved access to dental, mental health, chronic disease and obesity treatments.

Every three years, a coalition of area nonprofit health care centers and the Sauk County Health Department circulate a survey that asks participants about their health needs along with other demographic information. The questionnaire is mandated by the Affordable Care Act and lays the groundwork for many health initiatives across the county.

“It is the basis of the information that we gather to take a look at how we can make Sauk County a place of health and wellness moving forward,” said SSM Health St. Clare Hospital Communications Director Melanie Platt-Gibson. “It begins and ends with the voices of the people who are in our communities, and we need to hear from them.”

Once the surveys are complete, health care officials meet with focus groups and community leaders, and hold input sessions to gather additional information on area health needs. The Sauk County Health Coalition, consisting of St. Clare Hospital, Reedsburg Area Medical Center, Sauk Prairie Healthcare and the Sauk County Health Department, then work together to decide how to use resources to meet the needs.

The first community health needs survey, completed in 2012, showed Sauk County residents needed improved access to dental care. The most recent from 2015 showed similar needs, along with more access to mental health treatment.

The results allowed the Health Coalition to develop a strategic plan to address the needs, according to the 2015 assessment.

The St. Clare Hospital Foundation began providing toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss kits to local food panties. The results also prompted the Health Coalition to partner with the Boys & Girls Club last year to launch the Building A Better U! Teen Summit, which focused on improving mental health awareness in kids and young adults. St. Clare Hospital and other local health care centers also sponsored mental health first aid training sessions.

“There are an overwhelming series of voices that are talking about mental health issues, and it is extraordinary as we look across the United States,” Platt-Gibson said. “It continues to be a driver of health and wellness.”

The community survey for 2019-2021 was launched in April and will be open until July 23. Sauk County residents can complete the questionnaire online, and health care officials also will provide access to it at the Sauk County Fair from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today through Saturday.

Platt-Gibson said about 1,400 people have taken the survey and officials hope to reach 2,000 before it closes. Participants can register to win more than $1,600 in prizes after completing the questionnaire. The Health Coalition will develop a strategic plan based on the results to address the county’s health needs next year.

“That’s one of the reasons why it’s really important as our Sauk County Health Coalition that each of us is working on this together,” Platt-Gibson said. “We’re all looking at the results and seeing what resources we have.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @PrinsenJake or contact him at 608-963-2441.

Baraboo News Republic Reporter