“Child abuse has been a hidden but prevalent problem in our area, but the pandemic has caused a child abuse crisis,” Leslie Hansen, a board member of the Mountain Child Advocacy Center, told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at its April 6 meeting. Commissioners proclaimed April Child Abuse Prevention Month.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk for child abuse and neglect has risen due to COVID-19 and the social and economic effects of mitigation measures, such as loss of income, increased stress related to parental child care and schooling responsibilities, and increased substance use and mental health conditions among adults.
The CDC cites safe and stable environments for kids as key to preventing child abuse. Strategies to help families achieve those environments include strengthened economic supports, quality early childhood care, strong parenting skill programs and critical interventions.
The Mountain Child Advocacy Center bestowed its 2021 Champion for Children Award on Dr. Cynthia Brown, the founder and leader of Mission’s child safety team. According to Mission Health’s website, Brown’s team “provides medical evaluations for nearly 700 children each year who have allegedly been abused or neglected. Mission’s program is part of a statewide network of child abuse specialists and serves one of the largest areas, 20 counties.”
Drew Shelfer, a social work supervisor who oversees the intake process for the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, said that 2,869 separate reports of child maltreatment were accepted for investigation by his agency in 2020. Child maltreatment was found in 497 of those cases.
Shelfer advised commissioners, “We ask the community to report suspected child abuse and neglect in Buncombe County by calling our intake hotline at 828-250-5900. We are open 24/7. Our team is always here to support children and families in Buncombe County.”
Student health ambassadors win national award
Student health ambassadors at six universities across Western North Carolina earned second place from the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities in a recent competition and will be recognized during a virtual summit Wednesday-Thursday, April 21-22.
“This collaboration has supported a rapid and successful COVID-19 mitigation strategy with infection rates lower than regional or statewide ones while students continue living and learning on their campuses,” said Amy Joy Lanou, professor of health and wellness and executive director of the N.C. Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville.
The student health ambassador positions were funded in fall 2020 through an N.C. Policy Collaboratory grant at UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University. The work was extended to Brevard College, Mars Hill University, Montreat College and Warren Wilson College through a partnership with Mountain Area Health Education Center and collectively reached 22,000 college students through 93 positions.
A spring 2021 grant from MAHEC funds 20 student health ambassadors at UNC Asheville. This semester, they have planned and implemented virtual panels, including one specific to vaccine questions; supported events such as the vaccine clinic and blood drives; completed 16 publications and 260 hours of training; delivered more than 200 meals to students in quarantine or isolation; and held over 600 support hours for the UNC Asheville campus community.
Health education events
- Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter Mangone of AdventHealth Hendersonville will present a free webinar on total ankle replacement and minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery 6-7 p.m., Thursday, April 22. Registration for the session is at AdventHealthNC.com/events or 855-774-5433.
- Transcendental meditation researcher Fred Travis of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition in Fairfield, Iowa, will present a 4:30-5:30 p.m. Monday, April 26, online program about the effects of meditation on brain connectivity and coherence. The talk is offered in association with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. To register, email MeditationAsheville@TM.org or call 828-254-4350.
Dogwood trust launches online grant portal
Dogwood Health Trust launched an online grant application portal for nonprofit organizations serving all or part of 18 Western North Carolina counties and The Qualla Boundary.
“While our original goal was to have this process up and running during 2020, our all-hands-on-deck response to COVID-19 delayed that process. Today we are delighted to open a clear avenue to partner with Dogwood Health Trust,” said board Chair Janice Brumit in a press release on March 31.
Dogwood’s new grant-making process focuses on learning more about any potential applicant‘s idea or project before requiring a detailed grant proposal. Applicants are invited to complete a pre-application first. A member of Dogwood’s Impact Team will follow up within 10 business days with any questions, will let applicants know if they should proceed with a full application and will guide applicants through the process. Pre-applications are accepted on a rolling basis; there is no due date for submitting requests. Visit dogwoodhealthtrust.org/apply-for-funding to access the portal.
Happenings in health and wellness
- Pardee UNC Health Care on April 6 celebrated the opening of the primary care practice at its newest location in Brevard, 1409 Asheville Highway. Pardee offers primary care medical services to adults and children of all ages at the new location.
- Juan Mascaro and William Mills, both of Transylvania County, joined the board of Pisgah Health Foundation. Mascaro is vice president of finance and operations and CFO at Brevard College, and Mills is executive and program director for Rise & Shine of Brevard.
- Dr. James Marnock, who has practiced family medicine in Black Mountain and East Asheville for 20 years, joined AdventHealth Medical Group Family Medicine at Black Mountain and Parkway.
- Preliminary data released April 14 by the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention showed a nearly 30% increase in overdose deaths during the past year. In North Carolina, overdose deaths rose 14% from September 2019 to September 2020.