Broadband Connectivity on the Regional Level

By Guest Contributor Sarah Thompson, MPA

SarahT

Sarah Thompson is the Executive Director of the Southwestern Commission, and Administrator of the Mountain West Partnership.

-What is Region A and the Southwestern Commission?

The Southwestern Planning and Economic Development Commission was formed in 1965 by concurrent, joint resolution of the counties and municipalities within the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina (Cherokee, Graham, Clay, Swain, Macon, Jackson, and Haywood) [Swain, Macon, and Jackson are the 3 counties served by Fontana Regional Library]. It was within this same time period that COGs all across the state and U.S. were formed. Initially, the driving factor behind this movement was money.  Between 1965 and 1975, state legislatures and the US Congress created thousands of grant-in-aid programs totaling billions of dollars in funds available to local governments. Funds were appropriated for water and sewer systems, housing, solid waste, emergency medicine, juvenile delinquency, recreation, health care, law enforcement, economic development, job training, senior citizens services and a plethora of other purposes.

The Commission has three primary departments: Workforce Development, Area Agency on Aging, and Community and Economic Development. We are one of 16 Councils of Government in North Carolina. We are governed by the local governments in the region, and our board is comprised of county commissioners and town mayors and aldermen in our 7 county region.

[link to a library resource about the Southwestern Commission (aka Region A)]

-How and when did the Southwestern Commission become involved with broadband?

Through our work in economic development and community planning, it has become increasingly apparent that lack of high speed broadband is the number one deterrent to economic growth that our region now faces. Whereas in the mid-to-late 20th century, basic infrastructure such as roads and water/sewer were our primary needs for economic competiveness, in today’s information era, it is broadband. As we have historically been a regionally focused agency that works with local governments on infrastructure needs, we felt that we should be doing all that we can to improve and expand broadband service to the region.


-Why do you feel Broadband and Connectivity are important for our region?

The economic reality is changing for rural America. We’ve had three major industrial employers leave our region in the past five years alone. Although we still focus on attracting large employers, the majority of economic growth is trending in small businesses and entrepreneurs. Nearly all sectors of the economy rely on the internet- private business, education, health care, etc. Without adequate access to today’s technology, we will fall behind.

 

-What is happening in Region A regarding Broadband issues?

The Mountain West Partnership (gownc.org) is a new economic development partnership for the seven western counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Southwestern Commission administers the partnership. The Mountain West Partnership Board of Directors directed Southwestern Commission staff to find a way to address the lack of broadband access in the region. Due to legislative barriers in our state laws that do not allow local governments to compete with private sector providers, increased access cannot be achieved fully by the public sector. The solution will have to be some form of public/private partnership model, in which the public sector is able to put some infrastructure funds on the table to incent private providers to provide service. Infrastructure is expensive, and because of our low population density, a private provider cannot see a reasonable return on investment if they pay for all of the infrastructure. Our local governments have fairly limited budgets, and many services to provide. Our hope is that in the near future, some state and federal subsidies will become available to rural areas such as ours, as was the case in the past with issues such as electrification and telephone service.


-What specifically is the Southwestern Commission doing, especially with regards to a consultant?

The Commission has contracted with ECC Technologies to conduct a broadband assessment of our region this fall. In this Phase I of our efforts, we hope to achieve a high response rate on the survey so as to aggregate the actual demand for service. Phase I also includes training for each county’s broadband committee on laws, policies, and solutions. Phase II, next year, will involve using the data collected in Phase I to begin negotiating with private providers for increased or improved service in the communities within our region. We realize that many communities have already surveyed the public on this issue, and all of the data from those surveys will be used in our study. However we encourage everyone to please take and share the survey under way now, as it is a very important step in this process.

Link to survey: http://mountainwest.baat-campaign.com/campaigns/master

For more information and resources on broadband in general and in our area, please see Fontana Regional Library’s Local Broadband webpage: http://fontanalib.libguides.com/broadband 

{Fontana Regional Library is concerned about Connectivity as part of our Long Range Plan}

It Gets Better

September can mean a lot of different things to different people: fall is here and the hills will be lit afire with changing leaves, the temperature outside cools to a comfortable level, kiddos go back to school, university is in session, life takes on a slower more regular schedule. September is also suicide awareness month. I am what people in the industry (yes there is a suicide industry) call a suicide loss survivor. I had never quite put label to my reality until I started researching for this post, but there it is: I am a loss survivor. Nearly ten years ago I split up with a man whom I had been with for several years. He had battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for the majority of his life. Soon after our split he decided to assert his last act of control and committed suicide. Needless to say, my world was rocked. Not only had I been learning to live without my partner, but all of a sudden I had to learn to live with all of the questions, guilt, and pain of what he had decided. It was suddenly and sharply real that I would never see or hear him again. Though we had not worked out as a couple, he was still the person at that time who knew me better than just about anyone else in my world, and he would no longer be in mine.

Most loss survivors go through the same feelings and emotions; disbelief, numbness, anger, guilt and a hole deep, deep down inside. When left behind after a suicide there are no answers, only speculation and that speculation is so deeply painful.  Loss survivors begin to question what they themselves have done wrong and it is common to hear of people close to the suicide victim taking their own lives not long after or being put on to suicide watch. I do not believe that many people with suicidal thoughts take this reality into consideration, especially when feelings of loneliness are intertwined in the person’s psyche. Susan Rose Blauner hits on this fact when she writes in her wonderful work on mental health and suicide survival, How I Stayed Alive When My Brain was Trying to Kill Me, “I wonder if they ever consider the fact that they are choosing to kill someone while wounding many others”.  I had never quite thought of Mark’s suicide in those terms but it rings true still today. Suicide is a violent act, and those who care for the person are being caught in the crossfire. Though they may not have a physical ailment, it can be mentally debilitating. One thing that loss survivors or suicide bystanders need to remember during the time of hurt, blame and loss is that everyone who attempts or succeeds at suicide is doing so for very personal reasons. This is their last act of control in a world that has spun out, it is their release of the pain and anguish that they have been dealing with, it is their decision. Blauner writes, “I think that when you don’t know what to do with your pain and are feeling unloved, suicide seems like a better choice than life.”  It is this escape from pain that drives most suicidal tendencies. It’s not that those who are suicidal don’t want to live; it’s just that they can’t deal with the pain any longer.

Fortunately there are many different resources available for people who need help, though we can as a society do much better in dealing with mental health crises. Whether you are feeling at the end of the line and ready to leave it all or are a suicide loss survivor here to pick up the shattered pieces left behind, know that there is help. The key is that you will have to want to get help and crucially, feel that you deserve help. Nationally there is the suicide helpline. It runs 7 days a week 24 hours a day and can be reached by phone at 1-800-273-8255 (talk)or online https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ .

It doesn’t matter what part you have to play in a mental health crisis, the people on the hotline are there to help.  Whether you are a concerned friend or family member, a suicide loss survivor or someone on the brink, they can lead you in the right direction off the edge. There are also several other web pages that have been started by suicide survivors that are a great resource for all involved to see that you are far from alone in what you find yourselves faced with: http://www.itgetsbetter.org is one of the more famous, started by Dan Savage (of the Savage Love column and podcast) and his partner as a response to the shockingly high rates of suicides amongst LGBTQ teenagers. It has resources and many different videos of people discussing their life and how at one point it all felt hopeless but that if you can hang on it will get better. Another  http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=urgent_crisis_suicide_prevention

is a page put out by the depression and bipolar alliance which is a little more scholarly in appearance and full of information. The last online source that I have for you (and please be aware that there are many many more available and I just personally found these to be comprehensive and useful) is http://www.lostallhope.com/ .  Lost All Hope is a web page that was created by suicide survivors and is a sort of crowd sourced platform, on which people share their story and support each other. There are also plenty of references to books and other sources. I found the chat space of this page to be very eye opening and a great safe space to find those who have been through similar situations.  Unfortunately the suicide horror is one that is shared by many others.

Here at the Jackson County Public Library we have partnered with Vaya Health to offer a mental health screening kiosk that is private and easy to use. It is located on the second floor next to the young adult section. The same mental health tool is offered online at http://www.vayamindful.org/ .  Please use whichever one feels more comfortable. Vaya Health manages public funds for mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual or developmental disability services in twenty-three North Carolina counties, including Jackson, Macon, and Swain. I tried the kiosk myself and found it easy and private. They ask a couple of demographics items at the beginning which are used solely for statistics purposes — a name is never attached or personal information of any kind. I did look through the privacy statement as well and Vaya Health was very explicit in the fact that they do not gather personal information, or sell any information to a third party. The demographic stats are solely for informational purposes to help Vaya Health better serve the community. It also must be noted that the information that the mental health screening does offer is not to be a replacement of a medical diagnosis. One of the best options that the kiosk offers is that they have the numbers and people to connect you with immediately to get the help that you need. If you do not feel comfortable with either of those local options you can call the Vaya Health directory line where they will connect you with mental health resources in Western North Carolina, 1-800-849-6127. You can use that number for yourself or for someone that you are concerned about in your life.

Just remember that asking for help does not make you weak, it does not make you broken past the point of no return. On the contrary, asking for help is one of the hardest things that we humans can do. I was lucky to have a large and loving support system, and for months I thought that I had myself under control. I am after all a Taurus and like a bull it’s hard for me to seek help of the personal kind. Then one day it just hit me. I was past the point of denial, of numb disregard.  I felt simply broken, lost. I didn’t know where to turn and I thought that I would never be able to let the pain leave. I believed in a way that I deserved to live with it. I could no longer stand it. A friend referred me to a lovely woman who was able to take me on at a sliding scale after I told her my circumstance. She was able to change my life and the trajectory that I was on. I never thought that I would benefit from such an arrangement and neither had Mark —  that is exactly why he never got help. I chose not to follow his footsteps.

Here are several books available in the Fontana Regional Library System:

How I stayed alive when my brain was trying to kill me by Blaunder, Susan

Why suicide?: answers to 200 of the most frequently asked questions about suicide, attempted suicide, and assisted suicide by Eric Marcus

Manic: a Memoir by Terri Cheney

Cracked not Broken: surviving and thriving after a suicide attempt  by Kevin Hines

Nutrition and Diabetes

By Krystle T. Holt, RD, LDN

dietitian holt

Krystle Holt is our guest contributor to this Shelf Life in the Mountains.  Krystle is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. She currently works as an outpatient dietitian providing Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) to patients. Krystle also works in Harris Regional Hospitals Cardio Pulmonary Rehab services where she provides individual MNT and group class for rehab patients. She helps with community outreach programs as well as employee wellness for Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospital. 

Each March the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sets out to remind people the importance of eating right and being physically active. This year the theme for National Nutrition Month® is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” This is a simple reminder of the small choices we can make daily that lead to a healthy lifestyle. Making every bite count can lead to big changes in our health. There are many ways you can “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”  Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Avoid skipping meals. When we skip a meal we tend to overeat at the next meal. Try to always have a good breakfast, lunch and dinner, using MyPlate to guide your choices. Making half of your plate fruit or veggies, one quarter of your plate lean protein, and a quarter of your plate grains, is a great start to healthy eating. Be sure to include low fat dairy at each meal which could consist of 1% or skim milk, low-fat yogurt or low fat cheese.

my plate

  • Have healthy snacks between meals. Snacks are a great way to avoid overeating at meals. Examples of a healthy snack may include: grapes and a mozzarella cheese stick or apple slices and peanut butter.
  • Choose a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Make sure half of your plate at each meal is fruit and veggies. Fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Choose whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas! Whole grains are a great source of fiber which helps us control weight, maintain normal gastrointestinal function, decrease cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and decrease risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, and Digestive Cancers.
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Replace sodas and juice with water to help maintain adequate hydration. Limiting added sugars in the diet like the ones found in sugar-sweetened beverages will decrease the amount of empty calories you put into your body.
  • Be physically active. Try to engage in some type of physical activity each day. Start slow for example walking or playing ball outside with your kids for 10 minutes. Most importantly…..have fun!

Use these tips to help you get started on a journey to a healthier lifestyle. You can find many different and up-to-date books to aid you in your journey to a healthy lifestyle at Fontana Regional Library.

The Case Against Sugar

What Do I Eat Now? : A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right with Type 2 Diabetes

Eat Out, Eat Well: The Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant

Mayo Clinic: The Essential Diabetes Book

Go Fresh: A Heart-healthy Cookbook with Shopping and Storage Tips

Healthy Weight for Teens

There are also many different resources online. Visit some of these resources to help you learn more about MyPlate, track your exercise and calorie intake, and get educational handouts regarding National Nutrition Month®.

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate

https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/

http://www.eatright.org/resources/national-nutrition-month

In addition to the above resources you can contact your Harris Regional Hospital Registered Dietitians in Sylva at:

  • Krystle T. Holt, RD, LDN: (828) 631-8823
  • Melanie Batchelor, RD, LDN, CDE: (828) 631-8825

EWWWW…GERMS!

 

It’s that time of year again!  The time of year we are all confined to the indoors – okay not fully confined since winter seems to have taken a back seat to allow for a spring teaser, at least for the moment.  (Please note that if we are hit with a monster blizzard I take no responsibility!)

Unfortunately, it does not seem that this unseasonable weather has cut back on all the sickness that seems to be going around.

Of course, we all know that good sanitary practices like hand washing and coughing or sneezing into a tissue can help curb the spread of those pesky germs.   One group of people that have trouble with this can be children.  It’s not their fault, certainly.  I mean it isn’t like you can see a germ and if you can’t see it, is it really there?  They are just little people and need to be taught and retaught the best way to squelch the spread of germs.  Even some of us adults could use a refresher in how to cut down on the spread of germs.

Below are some resources available through Fontana Regional Library that can help children and adults better understand germs and how we can slow them down.

For Teachers and Homeschoolers

germs-kit

Check out this great Curriculum Kit!  It contains several books and some interactive things to use.  It is geared toward kindergarten but I can definitely see it being used with preschoolers all the way up to second graders.

 

For Parents

germproofyourkids

As I perused the catalog in search of germy resources I came across this title, Germ Proof Your Kids.  I will admit that I did not read it, but it looks interesting.  It was published in 2008 so I wonder what they say about hand sanitizers?

 

 

For Kids – right click on book cover for more informationiknowhowwefightgerms

 

thegermbusters

 

germzappers

 

blowyournosebigbadwolf

 

washyourhands

 

wahsyourhands2

A Fun Song to Teach Good Hand Washing – from our friends at Jbrary

 

Here’s to good hand washing and fewer germs to spread this winter season and throughout the entire year!

eHealth: Doctor-Patient Teamwork for Improved Health Outcomes

e-health-feat-imageeHealth is a growing trend in medicine- many doctors and hospitals are making patient records available electronically, allowing patients to log in to “health portals” to see their own records. In addition to the convenience these services provide, other benefits include better quality and more efficient health care, increased privacy and security of health information, reduction of paperwork through administrative simplification, and better patient involvement- all of which are expected to help decrease healthcare costs.

My own doctor has a patient portal available. On my computer and smartphone (yes, there’s an app for that, too!) I can login to check my medical records – see the medications and dosages I’ve been prescribed, see notes from all my visits, see lab results, scheduled appointments, and even send messages to my doctor. The health portal also includes built-in patient trackers- if your doctor has asked you to track things like your blood pressure or blood sugar at home, you can have your results sent right to your doctor in real time!

mobile-phone-health-appI think that’s one of the greatest benefits of eHealth: getting patients more involved in their own care. Often times, a visit to your doctor’s office is a blur and it’s hard to remember all the instructions given, discharge papers get lost in the shuffle, or you can’t remember the name of that antibiotic you took last year that you had a bad reaction to.  Patient portals let you review all of that information and also let you share more information with your doctor. If you forget to mention something at an appointment that you had meant to tell your doctor, send them a message! So much easier than trying to remember it for your next visit!

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study has shown that deploying eHealth technologies improves health behaviors and physiological outcomes: in one prenatal program in Sao Paulo, the proportion of pregnant women who completed their scheduled prenatal visits increased from 10% to 80% after the implementation of an eHealth program and health outcomes across several conditions saw a large improvement.

Doctors aren’t the only resources for eHealth. The library also has resources to help you manage your health care. Visit the NCLive Health and Wellness Information Center to access health eBooks, health databases, and other health resources.

Other Online Resources

MedlinePlus – this service from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health provides information about health topics, drugs and supplements, and interactive tools and health tutorials.

Mayo Clinic – find articles on diseases, symptoms, medical procedures and much more! Their healthy lifestyle section offers articles on nutrition, fitness, and health, as well as access to healthy recipes.

NC Health Info –  get information on general health topics as well as local services. Check out their Being an Informed Patient page for more resources!

National Institute of Mental Health – provides information and resources for a variety of mental health conditions.

North Carolina Medical Board Consumer Resources – offers information about health providers and resources for filing complaints.


 

Information is always great- but remember that no website on the internet can diagnose or treat you or your health conditions. Use what you learn on your own to open a dialogue with your doctor so that he or she can address your concerns while offering you the benefits of their expertise and diagnostic tools. You and your doctor, working together, can more positively affect your health and well-being.