You can help with new health plan

Officials from across a range of public and private health service agencies are asking Midland County residents - young and old alike - to participate in the new, post-COVID 19 pandemic, post-flood edition of the Midland County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). Their goal is to make it a plan that recognizes complex health needs cut across service boundaries, and that community members can best address local problems.

Midland County Health and Human Services Council’s vision of what it hopes to accomplish during the next year to help residents coordinate care and determine the most effective programs was outlined Wednesday morning (Jan. 25) at Midland City Hall. It is the first collaborative effort to address the health needs of Midland County in such areas of mental wellbeing, substance-free resilience and healthy living since 2016, when the first CHIP was developed.

Sharon Mortenson, president and chief executive officer of the Midland Area Community Foundation, led a panel of four health professionals through a discussion on key points gleaned mostly from the post-pandemic studies that show more needs to be done.

The Health & Human Services Council presented the annual CHIP report in Council Chambers in Midland's City Hall.
Panelists were Kathryn Tate, president and CEO of the Legacy Center for Community Success; Brent Mikkola, Community Health manager at MyMichigan Health; Kathy Dollard, director of Behavioral Health Services at MyMichigan Health, and Deana Schad, program director of Community Mental Health for Central Michigan.

Absent was Sam Price , long-time president and CEO of the Ten Sixteen Recovery Network, who was ill, but remains an active member of the HHSC team, a collaborative group of more than 35 organizations from diverse sectors of the community targeting physical and mental health gaps in Midland County.

Panelists outlined goals accomplished under the priority old Chip plan. Those included “Good to Know” Campaign, promoting harm reduction for cannabis use, establishing a multidisciplinary Opioid Fatality Review team, hiring a food navigator at the Farmers Market, establishing a health fair at Dow Diamond to provide educational materials, and establishing Behavioral Health Telehub among three organizations for 24/7/365 contact for emergency response.

“When our organizations work together, we can accurately develop cohesive strategies to accomplish our goals,” said Mortensen ”The CHIP is a truly collaborative plan to assist in developing a thriving community.”
Sharon Mortensen is the president and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation.
To that end, Mortenson said a review of recent data shows even more elevated data relating to anxieties faced during the past three years than expected. Adults surveyed showed that depression increased from 26 percent to 34 percent in 2022, anxiety increased from 29 to 41 percent. Among youth, depression increased from 17 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2021. Suicide attempts increased from about one in seven in 2016 to nearly one in five in 2021.

Panelists noted that fewer than 40 percent of those surveyed in 2022 met minimum physical activity guidelines, more than half of those aged 45-54 have had a cancer colon screening, cigarette, vaping, and medical and recreational marijuana use has increased since 2019.

The CHIP was developed using data from various local and national sources, such as the Midland County Dashboard, the county health survey, county health rankings, the youth asset survey, data from MyMichigan Health, and others.

All panelists urged interested residents to contact any of the HHSC members to help with developing a comprehensive plan, one that includes working to reduce opioid overdose deaths, decrease anxiety and depression and increase physical activity and healthy eating.
You can direct contacts to:
Sharon Mortensen:

Substance-free resilience
Sam Price:
Kathryn Tate:

Mental wellbeing
Deana Schad:
Dr. Kathy Dollard:

Healthy living
Brent Mikkola:

Also, information can be found on the  
Midland County Health and Human Services Council Facebook page at:

Or, check out the website:
Health and Human Services - United Way of Midland County:(

You can view the presentation via replay on MCTV Channel 189 or the MCTV YouTube site.
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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at