OTTUMWA — Lynelle Diers, Wapello County Public Health clinical director, has been working as director for 25 years and in public health for over 30 years.
Diers said she likes providing services to Wapello County residents and wants residents to become more aware of the services Wapello County Public Health provides, such as children’s immunizations and flu shots.
Every five years, Diers and her staff also invite the public to participate in a community health needs assessment. They met last week.
“We talked about what we are doing well and what are we not doing well,” she said. “What we talked about was mental health and substance abuse we feel is an ongoing issue since 2000 as one of the top issues. We have made a lot of strides forward, but we don’t feel like the problem is totally mitigated where we need to ignore it. We’ll continue to address substance abuse and mental health issues for youth and adults.”
For Diers, it hit close to home when she found out some students in Wapello County had suicide plans. Her goal as a director is to make sure her and her staff can identify mental health struggles and get more professionals, such as doctors, nurses, correctional officers and others to give students the support they need.
She noticed mental health challenges were struggles, especially for children who come from lower income families, typically with single parents. The parents, she said, may not always give their children as much time as they need, since they may have to work two jobs, just to make ends meet. This she said can cause kids to feel isolated and lonely which can lead to depression. Social media is another factor.
“Instead of face to face conversations and learning coping skills, they’re on their devices,” she said. “It can have a huge impact on social media when they’re being bullied on social media.”
Diers is not only working to help residents get the support they need through mental health, she also wants to start a diabetes prevention program, something she thought of for six months. She said this would be a program for people who are pre-diabetic. Ideally, she wants to make it a year-long program with four months of weekly classes, then meeting bi-weekly before transitioning to monthly classes.
“The whole goal is to educate these individuals to live a different lifestyle so that they do not become diabetic,” she said. “We don’t want them to become a full-blown diabetic. If there’s a possibility that we can educate that person to a different lifestyle — that’s a win-win for me. Plus they will live longer in the end and not develop the hyper-tension, could potentially have a stroke and heart-attack. We would love to get it started. It’s an evident-based program. It would be a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC curriculum.”
“We just want to let others know about this and really make the county more aware of our services,” she said.