EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Every three years, focus group assessments are conducted to address healthcare needs in the local community, along with specific plans and a course of action. This level of research is something Dr. James Porter with Deaconess Health says takes a village.

“Working together really allows us to leverage the array of resources we have as a community, and point those resources most effectively at the places where we can have the greatest impact,” says Dr. Porter.

Health officials from Vanderburgh and Warrick counties helped reveal findings of the most recent study. This third assessment finds mental health, access to food, and maternal needs atop the list, specifically infant mortality in the African-American community.

“Specifically, at Deaconess, we have launched a clinic in a community that serves African-Americans more predominantly in town, and have done that cooperatively with one of the churches,” explains Dr. Porter.

Another top concern that has been a repeated survey result is the area of mental and behavioral health.

“We know we’ve always had these struggles for a lot of people, but I think what we’re dealing with now is the sheer number of people who are needing services,” says Emily Reidford with Easterseals Rehabilitation Center.

Reidford says while the pandemic helped highlight the need for mental health services, it also worsened the same issues it brought to light.

“I think you’re seeing a little bit of that Covid fatigue,” says Reidford, “but that stress is continuing to increase for a lot of people.”

For the next three years, officials plan to fill gaps in access to healthcare, and develop committees to address mental health, maternal healthcare, and a new issue recently discovered: transportation to healthcare services. Dr. Porter explains this has been an issue in rural areas of Warrick County.

“We do know that people who live in more rural areas, especially and particularly the older population, sometimes are challenged to find transportation to health care,” says Dr. Porter.

The fourth Community Health Needs Assement, or CHNA, will conclude in 2025. Results of the most recent surveys from 2019-2022 can be found on the websites for both Deaconess and Ascension Health.