The Population Health Trust: Here For You

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Recently, Skagit County’s Board of Health convened to discuss the health and wellness of our community during these unprecedented times. During the two-hour virtual meeting, the Population Health Trust (Trust) provided detailed information about the current state of our collective health and outlined the services already at play that address areas of concern.

Toward the end of the meeting, the Trust put forth the following question: “What are our most pressing needs right now?

A list of concerns was provided to the Board of Health; a series of issues that were brought to the Trust’s attention over the past several months by community members just like you. Through interviews, surveys and panel discussions, the Trust was able to put together this list, and now, it is time for action.

But you may be wondering, “What is the Population Health Trust, anyway, and what does it do?” Here is some information about the Trust, who the group is comprised of, and what it has achieved thus far.

What is the Trust?

In 2015, the Skagit County Board of Health appointed their first advisory committee to guide Public Health and our community in working together for health improvement. This committee, known as the Population Health Trust Advisory Committee (Trust), is a group of community leaders with a shared commitment to improve the quality of life for all residents of Skagit County.

Who are its members?

Some of our current and past Trust members. New membership photos coming soon!

The Trust is staffed by Public Health but its membership is made up of a group of folks who represent many different sectors of the community. It is a coalition of community leaders who have the knowledge, expertise, and—in many cases—the authority to affect major change. Afterall, to make a big community-wide impact, policies and systems are a powerful place to start. For a list of some current and past Trust members, visit the webpage here.

What does the Trust do?

The Trust conducts a Community Needs Assessment every five years. This is an opportunity for community partners to get together, analyze data and trends, determine areas of strength and need for improvement, and formulate a plan of action. It is also an opportunity for community leaders to ask the public questions like: “What could we do to improve your quality of life here in Skagit County?

From there, the Trust can put forth a list of priorities: the areas that will be worked on over the next several years.

A perfect example of the Trust’s ability to listen to the needs of the community is the Needs Assessment process that took place back in 2015. When they asked the community what the most pressing concern was, the Trust heard a resounding plea for more action around the opioid crisis. The Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team was created to respond to this plea, resulting in a host of new partnerships and policy changes that directly impacted the lives of Skagitonians.

COVID-19 and the Trust

The Trust is now in the midst of a new assessment cycle, and the timing couldn’t be more opportune. Our community—like so many others—has felt the major effects of COVID-19. Our businesses, families, children, and schools have faced incredible, and life-changing, challenges since last spring, and help is greatly needed. The Trust has heard from the community that there is an urgent need for behavioral health supports, like mental health and substance use services, a more robust workforce to address behavioral health needs, and wrap-around services for youth and young adults. The Trust is listening and is ready, willing, and able to respond.

Where to find more information?

If you would like more information about how the Trust works or what is currently being done to address the pandemic in Skagit County, please visit: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/PHTAC or call Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

Also, keep your eyes open for Community Forums in the fall! Just like with the first assessment, the Trust will be seeking your feedback on the data, goals and strategies designed to help Skagit come out of the pandemic better and stronger than ever.  


Get Familiar with the Family Resource Center!

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If you live in Skagit County and have young children, you most likely know about—and love—the Children’s Museum of Skagit County. Once snuggled in Cascade Mall, the museum now sits prominently at The Shops (a.k.a. the outlet mall) in Burlington.

It was truly a sad day for all Skagit families last year when the museum’s doors closed temporarily due to COVID-19. I can’t tell you how many times my toddler asked to go to the museum, only to be told that we couldn’t because of the virus.

But even though the doors have been closed to visitors, the staff at the Children’s Museum have been busier than ever! Through a partnership with the Children’s Council of Skagit County, Help Me Grow Washington, and Skagit County Public Health, the museum has been able to continue to serve our community in a new and innovative way.

What is the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center?

Opened in October 2020, the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center is the brainchild of the Children’s Council and was made possible through Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) funding from Skagit County. Partners decided to house the center at the Children’s Museum because the museum was already an established, safe, and trusted community center for Skagit County families.

Though Skagit County has many resources for families, all too often community providers hear from people that they didn’t know that support was available at the time when they needed it. It is the goal of the Family Resource Center to make accessing help an easy process, so that families can quickly find what they need, when they need it, in the way that they need it.

Now, more than ever, parents and families need extra help. As our community faces this pandemic, we have witnessed the reality that many families are being left without a safety net, whether due to loss of income, loss of childcare, or the over-night shift to remote learning. Families are feeling stressed, anxious, and scared. Traditional supports (like extended family or neighbors) may also be less accessible because of state-mandated social distancing and concerns around disease transmission. 

Who can get assistance through the Center?

The Center is available to anyone who could benefit from a little extra help or connection. Even if a family isn’t struggling to afford basic needs, there are so many other types of supports and services available—if you are curious, just ask! The Center’s staff would love to hear from you!

When you contact the Center, staff will use a screening form to determine need. From your call, online form, or email, staff can prepare a package to meet your specific needs.

What kinds of assistance are available through the Center?

The Family Resource Center is providing reliable local information, referrals to services, and application assistance for public programs. The Center is also distributing emergency basic needs items to families who demonstrate a COVID-related financial need.

Whether parents are looking for connections with other parents, opportunities for fun and educational activities for their family, information about their child’s development, or help applying for services, Help Me Grow staff will be able to help in many ways. Here are some examples:

  • Basic Needs assistance: help with things like food, shelter, utilities, diapers
  • Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Support: maternity support services, new parent groups, and the support through the Welcome Baby program
  • Childcare/Early Learning: find options for childcare, preschool, play-and-learn groups, library story times, Kindergarten registration, and more
  • Family Fun: activities and events
  • Family Support: parent coaches, support groups, warm lines, and home visiting programs
  • Health and wellness: free/low-cost health care, dental care, family planning, mental health services and supports, and recovery services
  • Special needs: services and supports for families of children with health and developmental concerns

The Center is also providing activity kits and books to families to promote early learning and to help occupy young children in positive ways for short periods if their parents are struggling to care for their children while working from home, or assisting older children with virtual education. Each family receives a care package filled with items like hand sanitizer, cloth face masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, bubbles, resource lists and information, tissues, Vroom parenting tips and prompts.

How can I connect with the Center?

TheFamily Resource Center is not a drop-in center, however staff will work with you if special arrangements are needed. There are several ways to get in contact with the Center, including by phone, text, email, and by submitting an online form. At present, assistance is available in English, Spanish, and Mixteco. See below for contact options:

Scheduled pickups are COVID-friendly. Plan for curb-side pickup at the Children’s Museum: 432 Fashion Way, Burlington, WA 98233.

Will the Center eventually close when COVID isn’t as prevalent?  

The Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center and partners are busily making plans for the future. Once the museum reopens in the coming weeks, the Family Resource Center will continue to operate out of the museum, and assistance will continue to be provided through curb-side pickup. Onsite programs, such as Kaleidoscope Play & Learn groups, the Parent Café weekly groups, and parenting classes will also resume at the museum.

Are there plans to reopen the museum soon?

Wait—did I just read that the museum will reopen soon?! Yes, you read correctly!

The Children’s Museum of Skagit County is excited to reopen on Wednesday, June 2nd! Museum staff are working tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare the facility and exhibits. The plan is to operate at reduced capacity (according to the WA State guidelines) with time ticketing and following all state mandates. At this time, staff are also planning for Summer Camps to take place this year. For updates about reopening, visit the Children’s Museum website here.

To learn more about the Help Me Grow – Family Resource Center, visit the Help Me Grow Skagit website. If you have questions about the program, or need additional information, call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Getting There: Traveling to your Vaccine Appointment

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Vaccine roll-out has been slow over the past two months due to limited supply. Now that we will begin to see more supply arrive in Skagit County, more appointments will be available to those who are eligible. At present, only those who qualify under Phases 1a and 1b-Tier 1 are eligible; however, in the coming days, Public Health expects the State to move to the next phase.

Skagit County Public Health and our partner providers in the County have been working with local transportation providers to work through issues around accessibility. As eligibility widens and more people are able to make an appointment, providers must be able to respond to the needs of our diverse population.

Fairgrounds Clinic Layout

The Vaccine Clinic at the Skagit County Fairgrounds uses a walk-in clinic for first doses. This means that individuals will park their vehicle and enter the clinic on foot. For those with mobility issues, disabled parking is available next to the clinic entrance.

Those who arrive for a second dose at the Fairgrounds will be ushered through our drive-through clinic. Here, people will be able to receive their vaccine without leaving their vehicle. To date, this is the only drive-through vaccine clinic available in Skagit County.

For both first-dose and second-dose appointments, visitors will be required to wait 15 minutes post-vaccination for observation. It is important to keep this in mind when planning for transportation. Appointments can vary in length; it can take between 30-60 minutes from start to finish.

Foot Traffic versus Walk-ups

While there are no walk-ups permitted at the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic (meaning only those with an appointment will be permitted), the site does allow for individuals who arrive on foot. Because of this, people can absolutely use public transportation to get to and from the Fairgrounds Clinic. This applies to those arriving for both first-dose and second-dose appointments.

For information about how to schedule an appointment at the Skagit Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic, visit: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

Transportation Assistance Options

For those who need transportation assistance to the Fairgrounds Clinic (or other vaccine provider locations in Skagit County), you have some options:

1. Fixed Route Services through Skagit Transit

Those using the Fixed Route service may access any route—at no cost—by showing proof of a vaccine appointment. Since there are numerous vaccination sites in Skagit County, the driver will ask which location the person is trying to get to.

If traveling to the Fairgrounds Clinic, take Route 202 from Skagit Station and exit at South 2nd Street and Hazel Road. A short walk will get you to the site entrance at 1410 Virginia Street in Mount Vernon. Here, people will check in with staff at the front entrance and will be directed to Registration.

Any person who is unfamiliar with the Fixed Route service and/or bus stop locations should contact Skagit Transit’s Dispatch Center at (360) 757-4433 for assistance on where to catch the bus and/or which routes to take to their destinations. You can also use Skagit Transit’s online trip planner here: https://www.skagittransit.org/trip-planner/.

2. Paratransit Services through Skagit Transit

Those who cannot use the Fixed Route service can use paratransit services. If you respond “NO” to any of the following questions, you may qualify for the Paratransit service.

  • Are you able to get on or off a bus?
  • Are you able to get to or from the nearest bus stop?
  • Are you able to wait (standing) at a bus stop for 5 to 10 minutes?
  • Are you able to ride or to understand instructions on how to ride the bus?

To access this service, riders must call the Dispatch Center at (360) 757-4433 and speak to a Scheduler, who will work with them to find the best possible pickup location and arrange the pickup times. Since Paratransit is a reservation-based service, a minimum of 24-hour advanced notice is required. Riders must be prepared to show the driver proof of a vaccine appointment in lieu of bus fare.

If using the Paratransit service, please keep in mind that the Paratransit driver will most likely not be able to wait the full length of your vaccine appointment. As noted above, it can take 30-60 minutes for an appointment depending on wait-times. When scheduling your ride, be sure to let the scheduler know that you are going to a vaccine appointment and that there will be a wait.

Those arriving by paratransit (or any other service like a cab or Uber) will be dropped off at Registration and will be processed similar to someone who has arrived on foot. Please plan to schedule a pick up at the site following the 15-minute post-vaccine observation period. For those with mobility issues, staff will assist getting individuals to and from the Site entrance.

For more information about Paratransit Services, visit https://www.skagittransit.org/additional-services/dial-a-ride/.

3. Medicaid Transportation

Those who are eligible for Medicaid and have a Medicaid Provider One Identification Card (medical coupon) may be eligible for transportation assistance to a Skagit County vaccine provider location. People must call two days in advance to schedule a trip; call (360) 738-4554 to reserve a ride.

When reserving a Medicaid transport, be sure to let the scheduler know that you are going to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, and that it may take 30-60 minutes. Your driver may be able to wait on site, or a pick-up will be scheduled. In this case, please let the Vaccine Clinic staff know about your arrangement, and staff can work to accommodate your specific needs. 

Carpooling to the Fairgrounds Site

We realize that it might make sense to carpool with a friend or co-worker if you both have an appointment on the same day. However, for safety reasons, it is still recommended that only those within the same household ride together in a vehicle.

If you do plan to come to the site with someone else, please try to limit to two people per vehicle. This allows for staff to process vehicles more efficiently than if there are multiple people getting a vaccine in a vehicle. Remember: Only those with an appointment will be permitted into the clinic unless assistance is required.

If you have any questions about the information above, contact the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 or visit our webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Try the New Isolation & Quarantine Calculator

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When it comes to the health and safety of your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, there isn’t a lot of room for guess work. Figuring out exactly what it means to be quarantined or isolated can be confusing, especially when there are so many factors at play.

For this reason, the Washington State Department of Health has created an Isolation and Quarantine Calculator Tool to simplify these steps. You can check out this new tool at: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/CaseInvestigationsandContactTracing/IsolationandQuarantineforCOVID19/Calculator.

What does Isolation and Quarantine mean?

Snapshot of the new online calculator tool. Find it here.

Isolation and quarantine are key strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms, or are identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, Public Health will ask you to isolate or quarantine as appropriate.

Isolation describes when someone who has COVID-19 symptoms, or has tested positive, stays home and away from others (including household members) to avoid spreading their illness. This would mean that a person eat and sleep separately from other household members, as well as use a separate restroom (when able).  

Quarantine describes when someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 stays home and away from others for the recommended period of time in case they were infected and are contagious. Those in quarantine are still able to interact with those in their immediate household. Quarantine becomes isolation if the person later tests positive for COVID-19 or develops symptoms.

The period of time that someone must isolate or quarantine is reliant on the type of contact the individual has had, whether or not the individual tests positive for COVID-19, and whether this person develops symptoms or not.

The online Calculator will help to determine the dates of your isolation or quarantine if you:

  • Tested positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms;
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 but do not have symptoms;
  • Were exposed to COVID-19 (identified as a close contact); or
  • Previously tested positive for COVID-19 and want to know when you could be re-infected.

If you have been issued an isolation or quarantine letter from Skagit County Public Health, please follow the instructions provided. If you are an at-risk individual who is on quarantine or isolation, and you find yourself in need of assistance with getting supplies or food, call 360-416-1500 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirus.htm#O.


Winter Shelter in Skagit County

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On any given night in Skagit County, dozens of individuals and families experience homelessness. The winter months are always a difficult time for those who are unsheltered but the surge in COVID-19 cases and the economic and mental health impacts of the pandemic make this winter particularly treacherous to those who find themselves in need of shelter.

In past years, the County has supported a congregate-style winter shelter, but COVID-19 has made that option unsafe, as it does not allow for proper social distancing.  In order to temporarily house as many people in our community as possible and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Skagit County Public Health is supporting a number of motel voucher programs throughout the county. These programs provide individuals and families with temporary motel stays until a more permanent housing solution is available.

With the help of Friendship House, Skagit County Community Action, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and the Anacortes Community Health Council as well as funding from federal, state and local resources, approximately eighty families and individuals will have a warm place to sleep this winter.  Each motel program runs a little differently depending on the funding source. Some programs will focus on helping individuals with behavioral health diagnosis and other significant barriers to housing while other programs will cater specifically to families and offer additional support such as case management for families working to find permanent housing.

While the County regularly budgets funds for winter shelter programs, much of the funding for this winter season came from funds meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. While the additional funds made more beds available this year than in the past, the need is still much greater than the resources available. Currently well over 200 people in Skagit County are seeking housing.

These days, replacing traditional congregate shelters with motel voucher programs is not unique to Skagit County – communities across the country are using this model during the pandemic and there is some preliminary evidence that the benefits of motel voucher sheltering extend beyond curbing the spread of COVID-19. According to Shelterforce.org, organizations that have shifted to individualized care in motel settings are reporting a significant reduction of emotional and behavioral health issues that normally arise in a congregate setting.

These positive outcomes will likely be taken into consideration as the community determines how to best meet the needs of the homeless population in Skagit County beyond this winter and the pandemic. Winter shelter funding will last through mid-March but the County is still without a permanent year round shelter.  Currently the community is looking for ways to support a year-round emergency Shelter in Skagit County.

If you would like to know more about Skagit County’s plans for winter shelters, contact Public Health at (360) 416-1500.


Skagit County COVID-19 Mortgage Relief Grant Program

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Have you missed your mortgage payment because your income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19? You may be eligible for assistance.

Funding is available to help homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments because their income has fallen due to COVID-19. This one-time grant is for eligible Skagit County residents to pay up $6,000 of past-due or currently due mortgage payments per household as a result of a temporary job loss, reduction in work hours or other income hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applications are available online and will be accepted until November 23, or until all funds have been spent. Completed applications can be mailed or hand-delivered from 9am-4pm to Skagit County Public Health, 700 S 2nd Street, Mount Vernon, WA 98273.

Eligible Uses of Funds

Direct payments will be made to the mortgage company on the applicant’s behalf. No payments will be made directly to the applicant. Payments may be used for mortgage principal, interest and Private Mortgage Insurance, but not for escrowed items like property taxes or hazard insurance.

How do I know if my income qualifies?

To qualify, your household’s current adjusted gross income (AGI) has to be at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income.  See the table below.

What if my household income is currently over the limit?

Unfortunately, you are ineligible for this assistance if your household income is above the maximum amount. If you can’t pay your mortgage, or can only pay a portion, you should contact your mortgage company immediately.  You should also know that if you have a federally insured or backed mortgage, there is currently a foreclosure moratorium that runs through December 31, 2020. Homeownership counseling and assistance is available to all Washington residents, and you can call the Washington Department of Financial Institutions toll-free number 1-877-RING-DFI (746-4334) for assistance. 

Contact for Skagit Mortgage Assistance Program Questions:

Skagit County Public Health
(360) 416-1500
housing@co.skagit.wa.us


Food on the Table

Food on the Table – Resources and How to Help

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Worried about how to pay for three meals a day?

Here are some resources and answers. If you are in a position to help others, there are ways you can be part of the solution.

COVID-19 is changing the way that many of us shop and eat. Restaurants are closed for dining in. Kids aren’t eating breakfast or lunch at school. Much of the way we shop for our food has changed. Job losses, reduced hours and furloughs have many Skagit County residents worried about putting food on the table. But community organizations are stepping up to meet their needs.

For Families with Children

Before COVID-19, Skagit County, 55% of children qualified for free and reduced school lunches. With schools closed, districts quickly mobilized to feed children in new ways. Schools are providing breakfast and lunch for children, by either pick up or delivery. You can visit your school district’s website for more info. Each district program is different and some require parents to request meals in advance. A full list is available at the Northwest Educational Service District 189 website.

For Seniors

Now more than ever, many older adults struggle to shop and prepare meals on their own. Skagit County Meals on Wheels provides hot, nutritious meals for people over the age of 60 and who are homebound and unable to prepare meals for themselves. If you are looking for Meals on Wheels services for yourself or a loved one, contact the program by calling Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.

Senior Centers also provide frozen meals for weekday pick up. You can call your local Senior Center for details:

  • Mount Vernon Senior Center, 360-416-1585, Kristl Hobbs or Nickie McNulty
  • Sedro-Woolley Senior Center, 360-855-1531, Ellen Schweigert or Merrilee Komboukos
  • Burlington Senior Center, 360-755-0942 or 360-755-0102, Jackie Cress or Cheryl Kaufman
  • Anacortes Senior Activity Center, 360-293-7473, Amanda Miller or Annette Saling

State and Federal Benefits

The Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income individuals and families buy food. The Basic Food Program is Washington’s name for SNAP. SNAP used to be called the Food Stamp Program. These days, food benefits are provided on an EBT card, which works like a debit card.

If your financial situation changed due to COVID-19, you may now qualify for assistance you didn’t before. Some benefits like Basic Food have increased. As of March 30, some Washington residents who receive Basic Food benefits will have additional funds through April 2020.

To see if you qualify for SNAP, you can call the Help Me Grow Washington Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 to learn more about food benefits and how to apply for them. The hotline is available Monday-Thursday 8:00-5:30 and Friday 8:00-5:00.

If you are worried about crowded grocery stores, know you can grocery shop online using a SNAP EBT card. Online SNAP EBT shopping includes home delivery through Amazon and store pick-up at Walmart. See more info about online options below:

Amazon SNAP EBT

Walmart SNAP

Food Banks and Pantries

Food banks are following social distancing to keep their customers, volunteers and staff safe. Most food banks have switched to pre-boxed food that is handed out at the door. Others have set up drive-thru and walk-up services. Services and hours are likely to continue to change. Check out the Community Action website to find food bank updates.

Another option for people seeking fresh food is the Skagit Gleaners. Families interested in receiving more information can visit http://www.skagitgleaners.org.

Want to Help?

If you are in a position to help others you can:

Consider Donating to Your Local Food Program

Donations of money are best at this time. Not all food programs are accepting food donations. For a list of food banks you can donate to, see the food bank list on the Skagit Community Resource Directory at https://skagitcrc.org/food-banks.php

Consider Volunteering

Most food banks are small nonprofits relying on volunteers. During COVID-19, many volunteers are not able to safely volunteer at this time. Consider helping to fill this shortfall by devoting some of your hours to these critical community programs. The best way to learn about volunteer opportunities is to visit your local food bank’s website or social media page or to visit the Skagit County Volunteer Center.