Muskegon County, about halfway up the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, grew up around the fur and lumber trades. At one point in the early 20th century, Muskegon was home to more millionaires than any other town in America. Today the largest employers are the health care system, local government, and manufacturing firms. The county is a regional destination for summer tourists.

Due in part to unevenly distributed social assets, Muskegon Heights, which has a much higher percentage of poor and minority residents, also has dramatically higher rates of crime and blight. County-wide, key issues include obesity and diabetes, tobacco and drug use, limited access to healthy food, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and racial inequity.

1 in 21, the umbrella organization for community health initiatives including Wellville, is a joint venture of the Rotary Club and the County’s Public Health department. It is a coordinating, rather than an operating, organization. Three institutions are leading much of the work, in coordination with a variety of partners: the Muskegon YMCA, Mercy Health (part of the Trinity Health System), and HealthWest.

Wellville Focus Areas

Collaborative Name 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County
Wellville Coordinator Jamie Hekker

Diabetes prevention The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is run by the YMCA and funded by a 3-year CDC grant administered by Trinity Health. Since its inception it has scaled from 10 to 168 participants and has shown excellent results; currently, the Y is running 14 DPP classes across 11 locations. To fuel expansion, the YMCA has set up electronic referral systems for local physician partners and gets referrals from local Walmart stores. Program growth will help it become eligible for Medicare reimbursement and likely private-insurance reimbursement as well.

Healthy food Several public-private partnerships educate residents about healthy eating and facilitate access to healthy food for low-income residents. There is a farmers’ market in the City of Muskegon and a smaller one in Muskegon Heights. The community is at the point of launching a Phase II Food Hub, using a for-profit business model but with community benefit.  Meanwhile, Hackley Community Care, a local FQHC, and Community Encompass, a local nonprofit, are collaborating to provide healthy food to patients who need it. Finally, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County created the HEALTHY Muskegon network, funded through the Kellogg Foundation and Michigan Health Endowment Fund, providing grants and technical support to local healthy-food nonprofits.

Social determinants  Muskegon’s Community Health Innovation Region (CHIR) is one part of a multi-region State Innovation Model CMS grant being implemented by Mercy Health. CHIR work is focused on social determinants of health, improved clinical-care linkages with providers and community resources, and ultimately increased quality of care and health outcomes and decreasing healthcare costs. Similarly, Pathways to Better Health, funded and run by Mercy Health, addresses social determinants through wrap-around services.

Resilience and trauma-informed care HealthWest, the county’s behavioral health services provider, recently won a $4-million SAMHSA grant to examine ACEs and address child and neighborhood trauma through a system of care model. Its continuing work, including a trauma-sensitive schools initiative, has facilitated greater awareness of ACEs among providers, educators and others. HealthWest also runs a trauma-sensitive schools initiative, with quarterly professional learning events and a school leadership roundtable. In May 2018 it held ReCon: A Veteran’s Resilience Summit, with Dr. Vincent Felitti (co-principal investigator of the original ACEs study) as keynote speaker.

Parenting support Arbor Circle, a non-profit providing mental health and recovery services, is building collaboratives around parent education.  Their Nurturing Parenting program serves residents referred through court order, and their Strengthening Families program is embedded in schools and in HealthWest.  Boys & Girls Club and Early HeadStart and HeadStart are also serving several hundred high-risk children and indirectly their parents.