Midland’s Community Health Improvement Plan promotes health and wellbeing through collaboration

Five years of progress with more work to do.


The Health and Human Services Council of Midland County reflected on achievements from five years of implementing the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) at its annual meeting on Jan. 27. Hosted virtually this year, the panel included over 60 participants from Midland County healthcare organizations, nonprofits, government offices, and the public.

The Community Health Improvement Plan was presented virtually on Jan 27.

Since its launch in 2016, the CHIP initiative has focused on addressing health-related issues in the community through collaboration and strategic planning. The program addresses four focus areas: healthy weight, later life quality, substance use disorder, and mental health.


"The vision statement for our community is ‘Together. Forward. Bold. An exceptional place where everyone thrives,’” explains Sharon Mortensen, chair of the committee that oversees CHIP and president and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation. "To thrive, you've got to have these areas addressed; we need to make sure that there is good mental and physical health."

Sharon Mortensen is the president and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation.

CHIP consists of four work groups that meet monthly or quarterly, convening each year to share successes, challenges, and plans for the future. The program has advanced and expanded during the pandemic, adjusting goals and strategies in response to closures and safety regulations. "We've continued to work on the same focus areas even in the face of the incredible challenges that we've had this year," says Mortensen.

City of Midland Mayor Maureen Donker kicked off the annual CHIP meeting, praising the teamwork that makes the initiative possible. "This is one of the most wonderful collaborations that we have in our community," Donker says.

Let’s take a closer look at the four focus areas.


Healthy Weight


Tara Roberson, Michigan State University Extension community nutrition instructor, presented recent accomplishments in the healthy weight focus area. In 2020, the healthy weight task group expanded its “Prescription for Health” program — promoting physical activity, nutrition, and food availability.

Prescription for Health allows residents to use some of their food assistance dollars at the Midland Area Farmers' Market.
“Prescription for Health” allows residents to use some of their food assistance benefit dollars at the Midland Area Farmers' Market and provides classes on making the most of fresh local produce. The healthy weight task force also distributed Lou E. Loon exercise poster sets to local elementary schools and hopes to provide more resources to school-age children this year.

Later Life Quality

The later life quality focus area achieved several noteworthy milestones in the past five years. At the meeting, Senior Services executive director Charlie Schwedler highlighted advancements in the group's fall prevention programming and efforts to expand the use of advanced care directives in the community. The Midland County Vulnerable Adult Network program harnesses community partners to assist vulnerable adults, providing support and helping prevent criminal activity.


Responding to reports of increased isolation due to the pandemic and continuing impacts from the May 2020 flood, the later life quality group is redoubling its efforts to fight loneliness among older adults through its “Bridge to Belonging” partnership with MidMichigan Health and 211 Northeast Michigan. The senior assistance programs depend on support from law enforcement, the prosecutor's office, financial institutions, and other local agencies.
Later life quality is one of the areas of focus in CHIP.

Substance Use Disorder


Like other communities in the U.S., Midland has experienced fallout from the opioid abuse epidemic. Aiming to address drug use in the area through a concerted team effort, the CHIP substance use disorder task group educates doctors on best practices for opioid prescribing, works to increase the availability of NARCAN for overdoses, and oversees local recovery options.


Reporting at the CHIP annual meeting, Ten16 Recovery Network CEO Sam Price described how the group adapted to pandemic restrictions in offering prevention and treatment. The task force plans to continue offering services virtually when possible and ensuring in-person treatment personnel have adequate access to personal protective equipment.


Mental Health


MidMichigan Health director of behavioral health Kathy Dollard and Community Mental Health of Central Michigan program director Deana Mason reported on progress in the mental health area, reiterating positive outcomes in suicide prevention and police crisis intervention training.


A key accomplishment in 2020 was the launch of Midland County's Mental Health Court. The mental health focus group also assigned more social workers at the MidMichigan Medical Center, made more counselors available in local schools, and introduced the MyStrength wellness app to the community.




Mortensen attributes continued successes in the CHIP initiative to the creative use of community resources.


"When we come together, if people are already doing something, we look at how can we bring it together and do things in a different way," Mortensen explains. "Some of it is just collaboratively finding ways to do our work and to help one another."


The CHIP program welcomes input and participation from Midland County residents. Mortensen encourages those interested in contributing feedback through the Midland County Health and Human Services Council Facebook page.

Read more articles by Marta Manning.

Marta Manning was born in Poland and relocated to Midland after living in various cities on the East Coast. A lifelong passion for writing and photography prompted Marta to shift her career trajectory from lab science to freelance journalism. She contributes regular articles on medical topics to WebMD.com and helps business clients write proposals for federal research funding. Her articles have appeared in the Chemical City Paper, Our Catholic Faith Midland, the NAMI.org national blog, and the Midland Daily News.
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