Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-373-2391

Health Department Sees Increase In Demand for Services in Difficult Economic Times

The difficult economic times have certainly been reflected in the demand for services offered by the Marion County Health Department. Increased numbers of individuals using the Nurse of the Day program, those using the Refugee Program, demand for flu shots, increased numbers of pediatric asthma patients and large increases in clients using WIC services are all undeniable results of the tough economic times.

"In looking at the Nurse of the Day numbers through October 2008 and comparing to the same time frame for 2007, we have seen 5,349 more clients for walk in services," said Nancy Keefe, administrator for the Community-Based Care program. "I think in looking at those numbers there has to be some correlation to the economy," she added.

The response is the same at the health department's district health offices.

"I'd say yes, we've seen a huge increase in the need for services due to the economy. We've had an increase in business anyway due to the refugee population, but one thing I've noticed is the number of people commenting that they are coming here for flu shots because they can't afford them somewhere else. The fact people are willing to wait sometimes 3 hours just to save 10 dollars says something to me," said Kelley Murphy, coordinator, South District Health Office.

"It seems like community organizations and agencies we work with are running out of resources for people because they are referring us stuff we never used to see. We've been getting multiple requests to go into the homes of the elderly to assist them because the Central Indiana Coalition On Aging (CICOA) is overloaded. We're seeing people from the civil surgeons office because required INS vaccines are cheaper here. Riley's pulmonary unit is referring us lots of kids with asthma issues because the existing resources are too busy or not in place anymore," said Murphy.

The growth in the Marion County WIC program from Sept 2007 to Sept 2008 was the most significant increase seen in Marion County WIC history.

"In September 2007 alone, the Marion County WIC program served almost 23,000 clients. But in September 2008, the total served that month was more than 29,000 clients. Marion County WIC continues to add more than 500 clients each month to its caseload," said Shawn Wellman, administrator, Nutrition Services.

"Historically in WIC, when the economy goes sour and folks are looking to stretch their dollars, the effort it takes to pursue the WIC benefits suddenly becomes "worth it." And I think that says a lot, especially since the WIC food package consists of specific supplemental foods, and not the wide array and variety as you see with food stamps," said Wellman.

And while the health department's long-standing Foreign Born/Refugee Health Program has been serving increased numbers of clients during the past year, the economic climate has put additional strains on these individuals. "Our refugees are getting less and less assistance from the agencies they work with. We recently had 2 dozen Burmese clients in flip flops because they don't have shoes," said Murphy.

The Covering Kids and Families program has also witnessed a substantial increase in the demand for services. The agency has increased the number of sites where people can go to access health insurance from 64 to 81 in the past year.

"We have had an increase in our enrollment activity due to the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) and the demand for more people needing assistance with health insurance. In 2007 we completed 7,775 total applications, including Health Advantage and Hoosier Healthwise," said Pamela Humes, project director, Covering Kids and Families. "Through the first 11 months of 2008, we have completed 8,306 applications including Hoosier Healthwise, Advantage and HIP applications," she said.

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