The latest meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force for Public Health convened Monday to further examine the results of the Community Health Assessment, provided by Peterson Hospital. The comprehensive assessment is provided every three years to gauge multiple facets of health in Kerr County.
The Task Force has been studying the report with an eye toward making changes in the community to increase the health of Kerrville and the surrounding county. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are only now beginning to look at other factors affecting the community, and the group is focused on making as many improvements as possible, especially to address the imbalance that income and education places on healthcare choices and availability, according to the stated goals of the assessment.
Mayor Bill Blackburn, who chairs the Task Force, said a healthy city is a happier city.
“We have so many parks and the River Trail system. There is plenty of opportunity for anyone who wants to exercise to be able to do so,” Blackburn said.
Many problems can be addressed while people are young and in the school system, according to the study. Children’s health care is also a priority, as is substance abuse and chronic diseases.
“As for those areas of the city that have a lack of healthcare,” said Blackburn, “I think that the Doyle Center is doing an outstanding job. They have open clinics, healthcare fairs and food bank distributions that really help out those citizens in that area.”
There are things that Kerrville is doing right, the mayor said.
“We are at only 14% for adults smoking. That is better than 90% of the United States,” Blackburn said. ”Also, alcohol impaired deaths are down, as well as teen birth rates.”
Overall, there are more than enough assets in Kerrville to address the health needs of its citizens, but there needs to be a better way to dispense information, and more central control over that information, the study found. The task force is trying to build that system. Representatives from the City of Kerrville, the police, fire department, Peterson Hospital, and several private members of the health community are on the committee.
Dealing with the mental health situation in Kerrville is impacting the police department in a big way, and Chief Chris McCall was on hand to brief the task force on how his department handles the situation, and what that cost is in manpower.
“We use a lot of manpower just transporting patients who have been committed to the rehab centers or other treatment centers,” he said. “When we transport someone, the law requires that there be another officer present in the car for safety reasons. That takes two police officers out of circulation, sometimes for several hours, depending on where the patient is taken. Locally, that is not a problem, but sometimes they are sent to centers out of town, and that is when we really lose the officers for quite a while. Often, we have two or three teams transporting, so it is a great drain on our officer resources.”
Assisting in the transportation of patients is the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, who loan an officer to ride with the patient.
“There has to be some way to get these people transported that doesn’t involve tying up my officers,” said McCall. “My budget doesn’t allow for extra teams that do the transporting like some cities and counties have. We just don’t have the manpower for that.”
Task force members agreed the city needs to focus on preventive care to alleviate the problems.
Further meetings of the task force will focus on solutions to the many problems and what tactics will be followed by the city, county, healthcare officials and private sector members.
The next meeting of the task force will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 26, at the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library on Water Street, in the large, downstairs meeting room. The public is invited to attend.