Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett

County Launches Two Health Improvement Plans

County Executive Isiah Leggett and Healthy Montgomery today launched strategic action plans aimed at addressing two key community health issues—behavioral health and obesity. Leggett was joined by County Councilmember George Leventhal, chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services committee; County Health Officer Dr. Ulder J. Tillman; Kevin Young, president, Adventist Behavioral Health and co-chair of the Healthy Montgomery Behavioral Health Work Group; Linda Ashburn, RN, MPH, University of Maryland Extension Program and co-chair of the Healthy Montgomery Obesity Work Group; Terry Forde, interim president and chief operating officer, Adventist Healthcare; Wendy Friar, vice president, community health, Holy Cross Hospital; Celeste James, director of community health initiatives, Kaiser Permanente; Robert Rothstein, MD, vice president of medical affairs, Suburban Hospital; and Nikki Yeager, vice president, marketing and business development, MedSTAR Montgomery Medical Center.

The announcement coincided with the start of National Public Health Week, celebrated nationwide from April 7-13. This year’s theme is “Public Health: Start Here.”

“Healthy Montgomery’s vision is to provide a framework for improving the health and wellbeing of our residents,” said Leggett. “The release today of the strategic action plans to address obesity and behavioral health are key milestones. The next step in making our community the healthiest in America is to ensure the active participation of partners and residents to make sure that every Montgomery County resident has the opportunity to live well.”

Improving public health in the County requires participation by groups across many sectors. The Healthy Montgomery strategic action plans, recently approved by the Healthy Montgomery Steering Committee, are the result of a collaborative effort of dedicated, Healthy Montgomery partners who make prevention possible. Both plans call for the coordination and enhancement of existing programs and services to improve community health. Improved access to cost-effective prevention programs and services can improve the health of residents, especially the most vulnerable populations, and slow the rise of health care spending.

“Healthy Montgomery’s purpose is to guide our County’s public health efforts and assemble data to evaluate our success,” said Leventhal. “We have released two action plans so far – the first on behavioral and mental health and the second on obesity – and are in the process of developing four more action plans in priority health policy areas: cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes and maternal and infant health We also propose to bring stakeholders together to lay the groundwork for an integrated health delivery system that will ensure uniformly high quality for all patients, whether private pay, Medicaid or participants in our network of community clinics.”

“We know that investing in prevention and proven public health strategies can make an enormous difference,” said County Health Officer Dr. Ulder J. Tillman. “We are excited to launch the Healthy Montgomery action plans and are grateful for the continued collaboration and dedication of our Healthy Montgomery partners. It is a testament to the power of partnership. We want residents to know that public health does start here, with these action plans. With their involvement in these efforts it will end in success and improved health.”

“The behavioral health action plan reflects a shift to a more collaborative and integrated system of care in Montgomery County. This approach will ensure there is ready access to the various behavioral health programs and support services offered in our County and increase communication between an individual’s primary care provider, behavioral health provider and other caregivers. More importantly, an integrated system of care will lead to earlier identification and treatment of mental illness,” said Kevin Young, FACHE, president of Adventist Behavioral Health.

“Obesity affects a significant portion of the County population and we need everyone’s help to raise awareness of the problem,” said Linda Ashburn, RN, MPH, University of Maryland Extension Program and co-chair of the Healthy Montgomery Obesity Work Group. “We have a wealth of resources from progressive and supportive leadership to individuals with great energy working to make their communities a better place. Through Healthy Montgomery, we plan to coordinate these efforts around some common goals and create some synergy to support those individuals and organizations that are making an impact.”

The Healthy Montgomery Obesity Action Plan includes the following recommendations to prevent and reduce obesity among Montgomery County residents: (1) establish a broad-based County-wide partnership to address gaps in existing obesity prevention and reduction programming and policy, reduce redundancies and make the best use of limited resources; and (2) build upon existing data sources to establish a reliable and valid data system for monitoring the effectiveness of obesity prevention and reduction programs and policies, especially among children and high-risk populations.

The Healthy Montgomery Behavioral Health Action Plan includes three recommendations to improve the overall behavioral health (including mental health and substance abuse) of Montgomery County residents: (1) increase access to basic information about behavioral health treatment services and payment mechanisms; (2) improve communication among behavioral health service providers in order to create effective linkages (warm hand-offs) for individuals with behavioral health diagnoses; and (3) explore the creation of a coordinated system of behavioral health and health care services in Montgomery County.

A link to the complete action plan reports can be found at

Healthy Montgomery, the County’s Community Health Improvement Process, was launched in June 2009 and is an ongoing effort that brings together a broad range of individuals representing County government agencies, the five community hospitals, minority health programs/initiatives, advocacy groups, academic institutions, community-based service providers and the health insurance community to develop action plans to improve the health and well-being of all Montgomery County residents, especially groups most at risk for poor health. The website is a one-stop online source for population-based data and information about community health and the social and environmental determinants of health. The website provides data and information on more than 90 topics related to the health and well being of the community and its residents. Data on the website assists County policy makers and partners in identifying key priority areas and helps guide decisions about strategies to meet various needs.

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