April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

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Post by the Skagit Valley Family YMCA

Every day, the Skagit Valley Family YMCA focuses on creating healthy activities and environments for kids to learn and grow! As part of this, each April, we join Washington State’s Department of Children Youth & Families (DCYF) in spreading awareness about child abuse and prevention strategies. Here are a few tips to help protect children in your community:

Know the signs.

Unexplained injuries aren’t the only signs of abuse. Depression, watchfulness, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility are often signs of abuse. Learn more about the signs here.

Evaluate if a report should be made.

Anyone who has reasonable cause to believe a child has suffered from or is at risk of abuse or neglect, should make a report. “Reasonable cause” means a person witnesses or receives a credible report alleging abuse. The report must be made at the first opportunity, no more than 48 hours after witnessing or receiving a credible concern.

Make a report.

If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence of abuse, make a report to your state’s child protective services department or local police. When talking to a child about abuse, listen carefully, assure the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult, and affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened. If the child is in immediate danger, please call 911. For all other reports, call, text, or online chat the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1800- 422-4453).

Not sure about making a report? The Skagit Valley Family YMCA is here to help! All Y Kids staff are trained in child abuse prevention and reporting and our childcare centers are located across the Skagit Valley from Anacortes to Sedro-Woolley. Give us a call or visit one of our Skagit Y childcare centers.

Long-Term Effects

Child abuse has many long-term effects on children including brain trauma, PTSD, alcohol or drug use, and criminal activity. Childhood maltreatment has also been linked to life-long health problems including lung and heart damage, diabetes, high blood pressure, vision problems, and more. Fortunately, however, there is promising evidence that children’s brains and bodies may be able to recover with the help of early and appropriate interventions to decrease the risk of long-term effects.

Abuse Today

While school and childcare staff are trained to recognize the signs of potential abuse and the proper reporting procedures, COVID has limited contact that children have with trusted adults outside of their homes. With the lack of contact that trained adults have to youth due to COVID restrictions, there have been fewer reports made and a rise in hospital visits of kids who have experienced abuse or neglect. That’s why we need your help to identify and report signs of abuse or neglect. 

Get Involved

Join us for Wear Blue Day on April 2 as we kick-off child abuse prevention month! We encourage you to take photos and post them on social media using the hashtag #growingbettertogether and #CAPmonth.

Show your support by purchasing, making your own, or coloring a printable pinwheel! All proceeds from purchased pinwheels go toward Prevent Child Abuse America

Consider joining a parent group within Skagit and encourage other parents to keep an eye out for any signs of abuse or neglect. If you see something strange, you are likely not the only one. Together, you will be able to better determine if making a report is the right next step.

Prepare your Kids

Talk to your kids about what appropriate relationships look like with other adults. It may not be the right time for you to share what inappropriate behavior looks like, but by setting expectations for appropriate behavior, you provide a guide for your child to know what to expect and recognize behaviors that fall outside of the norm. It’s important for kids to know that they should trust their instincts and if something doesn’t feel right, to talk to you, a teacher, coach, or other trusted adult.

Even if your child isn’t exposed to abuse, they may know someone who is. Your kids are the best judge of any changes in their peers’ behavior and can help recognize potential signs of abuse or neglect. Consider asking your child questions such as: Did all of your friends seem happy today? Is there anyone in your class who seems left out? 

Many times, children who are abused, may repeat their abuse to other children without early intervention and support. Together, we can help stop the cycle to protect all children from abuse and neglect.


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.


COVID-19 Vaccines & People with Disabilities

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On Wednesday, March 17th, Washington State expanded vaccine eligibility to Phase 1b-Tier 2. This new Tier includes critical workers in congregate settings and individuals 16 years and older who are pregnant or who have a disability that puts them at higher risk of infection.

People with disabilities continue to experience barriers to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and some disabilities increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This prioritization, by the Washington Department of Health (DOH), is intentional to provide access for a high risk group who experiences more barriers to access.

Under the category of disability, DOH has included:

  • Individuals with Down syndrome
  • Individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability
  • Those who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/low-vision, or deafblind

In order to be considered eligible under Phase 1b-Tier 2, an individual’s disability must put them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g. Down syndrome)—OR—the individual with a disability must have an underlying medical condition which increases their risk for severe outcomes per the CDC’s list of the conditions that put people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This list can be found here: https://bit.ly/3escFtw.

Below is some information that may be helpful to those individuals with a disability who are newly eligible for a vaccine. There is a lot of information circulating about the COVID-19 vaccine and about how difficult it can be to make an appointment, so we hope that this information will prove to be useful for you and your loved ones.

Who should receive the vaccine?

It is recommended that anyone who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine do so! To find out if you are eligible, please visit: www.findyourphasewa.org.

The only exception to this recommendation would be if someone has experienced severe complications (such as anaphylaxis) in the past after receiving a vaccine. In this case, please consult your doctor prior to scheduling a COVID vaccine appointment.

Are caregivers eligible?

Caregivers who meet the definition below are eligible for vaccine in Phase 1a as workers in health care settings:

  • Eligible caregivers (licensed, unlicensed, paid, unpaid, formal, or informal) who support the daily, functional and health needs of another individual who is at high risk for COVID-19 illness due to advanced age, long-term physical condition, co-morbidities, or developmental or intellectual disability. For the caregiver to be eligible, the care recipient:
    • Must be someone who needs caregiving support for their daily, functioning, and health needs.
    • Can be an adult or minor child. For dependent minor children, the caregiver is eligible if that child has an underlying health condition or disability that puts them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. For example: a caregiver of a minor child with Down syndrome.

To determine eligbility, visit findyourphasewa.org and respond “Yes” when asked if you work in a health care setting.

Are there side effects after getting the vaccine?

Yes, minor side effects are possible after receiving the vaccine. Common side effects may include:

  • Pain at the site of the injection
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm in which the vaccine was injected
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills

When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus. Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated.

How do you make an appointment?

Eligible individuals can locate a vaccine provider by visiting: www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations. Most appointments can be scheduled online, however there are other scheduling options available for those who need assistance.

Note: People can schedule a vaccine appointment for someone else, either online or on the phone! To learn more about what information you will need to do so, read our blog post here: https://skagitcounty.blog/2021/01/27/a-guide-to-skagit-county-public-healths-online-vaccine-scheduler/.

Blind and low-vision individuals can call BLIND COVID at (360) 947-3330 to ask questions regarding access to resources related to COVID-19. The purpose of BLIND COVID access line is to provide access to information over the phone that may otherwise be difficult to locate through the web or other means. Folks can use this resource to schedule an appointment, and staff will help to find a vaccine site that has accommodations for those with visual impairments.   

The Skagit County Vaccine Hotline is also an option for those who cannot schedule online. The Hotline is available in English and Spanish and operates Monday-Saturday, from 8am to 5pm. Please call (360) 416-1500 to schedule your appointment (when supply is available).

What to expect at the Skagit County Fairgrounds

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic is one of many vaccine providers in Skagit County. You can make an appointment with us by calling the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 or by visiting our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine. And if you make an appointment with us, there are some things to note!

First-Dose Clinic

First-dose appointments are a walk-up clinic, meaning people with an appointment are required to park their vehicle and enter the clinic building. There is parking available right at the front entrance to accommodate individuals with mobility needs. A wide entrance can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. There is also a ramp for individuals to get to and from our Observation Room (where folks wait 15 minutes post-vaccination for observation).

Second-Dose Clinic

Second-dose appointments are done through our drive-through system. In this case, folks will remain within their vehicles and will roll their windows down when the vaccine is being administered. If the window cannot be rolled down, or if the nurse is not able to reach an individual’s arm through the window, this person may be required to exit the vehicle to receive the vaccine.

Mask Requirement

Please know that masks are required for the safety of our staff and guests. If you are exempt, please be sure to let our staff know when you arrive to the site.

Site staff and volunteers will do everything they can to assist you. With that said, it is important to note that for some individuals, the Fairgrounds clinic may not be the best option. If someone has had a traumatic experience in the past with vaccinations or medical interventions, or if someone is easily over-stimulated, the Fairgrounds Clinic may be problematic.

If you have concerns, please talk with your doctor about clinic options that may suit your specific needs. You can also call Public Health for more information about our site at (360) 416-1500 or visit our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Overdose Prevention & You

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Bob Lutz, Washington State medical advisor for COVID-19 response, states that “Washingtonians with substance use disorders may have found themselves using more frequently [during the COVID-19 pandemic], and unfortunately, the data suggests they are also overdosing more often.Alarmingly, Skagit County has also observed an increase in opioid-related overdoses. Keep reading for preliminary, 2020 State- and County-level overdose data.

But first, a quick terminology refresher!

Overdose happens when a toxic amount of a drug, or combination of drugs, overwhelms the body. People can overdose on lots of things including alcohol, Tylenol, opioids or a mixture of drugs. When an opioid overdose occurs, the overdosing individual may experience slow or no breath, choking or snore-like sounds, pinpoint pupils, blue/ashy skin, nails and lips, unconsciousness and/or death. Fortunately, there are harm reduction practices and prevention interventions that can significantly reduce one’s chances of overdose and death. Visit SkagitRising to learn more.

Fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin. There are pharmaceutical forms of fentanyl that are used for anesthesia and pain. However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and death have been linked to illegally made fentanyl. Any illicit drug in any form – powder, pill, etc. – could have fentanyl in it. You can’t necessarily tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or look of the drug. According to the DOH, we should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING:

In Washington, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioids (often with an imprint of “M30” or “A215”), as well as in powders and black tar heroin.

Opioid Overdose Data

Last month, the Washington State Department of Health published a News Release, which includes preliminary overdose data for the first six months of 2020.

Here is a Brief Snapshot:

  • Overdose deaths in Washington State increased by 38% in the first half of 2020, compared to the first half of 2019. Most of this increase came from deaths involving fentanyl.
  • Fentanyl-involved deaths more than doubled from 137 to 309.
  • Most deaths involved multiple substances, sometimes called polysubstance use.

Skagit County also observed an increase in opioid-related deaths when compared to 2019. While Public Health and many other community partners have been working diligently to reduce the impacts of opioid misuse and overdose in our communities (see list of collaborative efforts here: https://skagitrising.org/what-is-being-done/), we need your help!

How YOU Can Help

We all play an important role in reducing opioid overdoses and saving lives in our communities.

  • The COVID19 pandemic has affected us all. Stress and social isolation may increase risk of substance misuse and overdose. Offer support to friends and family – send a text, call, video chat, get together in one-on-one or in a small group outside.
  • Know the signs of an opioid overdose and how to help.
  • Naloxone (also called Narcan®) is a safe medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. If you use opioids or know someone who does, make sure to carry naloxone. You could save a life! Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without a prescription.
  • If you think someone is overdosing don’t hesitate to call 911. The Good Samaritan Law (RCW 69.50.315) protects you and the person overdosing from prosecution of drug consumption and drug possession.
  • Help those struggling with opioid use disorder find the right care and treatment. Buprenorphine and methadone, two medications used to treat opioid use disorder (MOUD), can cut the risk of a fatal opioid overdose in half, and support long-term recovery. Find local MOUD treatment programs by visiting https://skagitrising.org/  
  • If you use drugs, please practice harm reduction techniques. If you must use alone, call 800-484-3731 (Never Use Alone Hotline).

Additional Info

Feeling overwhelmed and/or don’t know where to start? You are not alone. Visit the WA Recovery Helpline (or call 1-866-789-1511) where they provide emotional support and connect callers with local treatment resources and community services. You can also learn about local resources by visiting https://skagitrising.org/resources/

If you have questions, want to learn more about behavioral health services in Skagit County, or would like to pick-up free naloxone or fentanyl test strips, contact McKinzie Gales, Community Health Education Specialist at mgales@co.skagit.wa.us or (360)416-1528.


COVID-19 Testing Site at the Skagit County Fairgrounds to close permanently after Saturday, March 13

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February 10, 2021

Today, Skagit County Public Health announced that the final day of testing at the Fairgrounds drive-through testing site will be Saturday, March 13, 2021. Further, on February 23rd, testing will be operating on reduced hours from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Skagit County Public Health will continue to utilize the Fairgrounds location for COVID-19 vaccinations only. Other testing providers are available in Skagit County.

Many doctor’s offices are now offering COVID-19 testing to their patients. Contact your healthcare provider first to see if they offer COVID-19 testing. Those seeking other testing options can also find a list of providers here: www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthDiseases/coronavirusTESTsites.htm.

Public Health has tested over 43,000 individuals since the Testing Site first opened at Skagit Valley College in April 2020. In November of 2020, the Testing Site moved to the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

“It is time for Public Health to shift focus and resources to vaccine roll-out,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. There are many more testing options available to those in Skagit County compared to when we first opened, and this has allowed Public Health to move in this new direction. It is our goal at Public Health to be responsive to the current needs of our community and we are excited to be able to focus on our mass vaccination location at the Fairgrounds.”

When vaccine supply allows, the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at the Fairgrounds location operates by appointment only. Eligible individuals can make appointments online at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ when supply is available. Skagit County is currently vaccinating Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Tier 1 individuals. Visit www.findyourphasewa.org to determine if you’re eligible.

For more information, visit Public Health’s website: www.skagitcounty.net. For COVID-19 vaccine questions, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500.  

 


Why Do Baby Teeth Matter?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Saying that new parents are mentally and emotionally overwhelmed is an understatement! Between nighttime feeding, colic, breast or bottle feeding, and sleep training, it is amazing that new moms and dads are capable of handling anything else during the first year!

It is easy to forget all the little details when life is changing so quickly; one of those things that gets forgotten may be your baby’s dental health. Whether your baby pops a few cute teeth right away or rocks a gummy grin for months, it is important to always keep dental—and gum—health in mind!

Those little chompers are doing more than just gnawing on baby teethers and bars of their crib. It may not be obvious why baby teeth are so important, especially since children lose them eventually anyway. But the reality is that these little teeth, and the behaviors that children develop in order to keep them clean, are vitally important to their long-term dental health. Baby teeth can actually impact the health and wellbeing of incoming adult teeth!

Here are some things to consider when thinking about your child’s baby teeth:

Tooth alignment and position

Baby teeth (or “primary teeth”) save space for adult teeth and help to guide the adult teeth into their proper position. So long as the teeth and gums remain healthy (and there are no serious accidents!), these primary teeth stay in place up until the adult teeth underneath are ready to erupt through the gums. 

If a baby tooth is lost early due to tooth decay, the adjacent teeth may drift or tip into that gap. The adult (or “permanent tooth”) then has less room to come in properly.

Speech and facial development

Everything in the mouth plays a part when it comes to forming sounds, including your tongue, cheeks, and teeth. The presence and positioning of baby teeth can impact your baby’s ability to form words correctly.

Tooth structure also provides support for the developing facial muscles and gives shape to your child’s face. A healthy mouth is a happy face! And who doesn’t love a cute little baby face?!

Healthy adult teeth

Permanent teeth develop under the gums, very close to the roots of baby teeth. Cavities can spread very quickly through the thin enamel of baby teeth and can be detrimental to the health of the adult teeth below. If cavities are left untreated, baby teeth can become infected, which can, in turn, cause further damage to the permanent tooth underneath.

Health and nutrition

If your baby is experiencing pain when they chew due to dental infection, this can lead to feeding issues. Nothing is worse than a cranky baby who won’t eat—especially since many times they cannot express why they are upset. Left unchecked, it can even result in nutritional deficiencies. Furthermore, if an infection spreads, it can impact other parts of the body.

Self-esteem and concentration

While your baby or young child may not care how goofy they look, eventually, their appearance will matter. Decayed or missing teeth can impact a child’s confidence, leading to low self-esteem and behavioral issues.

Dental health can also impact your child’s ability to concentrate. If a child is having dental pain, it can get in the way of them paying attention and learning in school. If emergency dental work is needed, this could mean missed school (and work for parents).

So, what should parents do?

It is recommended that parents schedule a dental checkup within 6 months of a child’s first tooth appearing and definitely by age one (regardless of how many teeth the child may have at this point). Why so early? As soon as teeth break through the gums, he or she can develop cavities.

Getting your child used to visiting the dentist from an early age is also a great way to begin developing a healthy relationship between your child and their dentist. It can be intimidating for a child to sit in a dentist chair and have a stranger looking around in their mouth! Parents can do a lot to help to dissipate any fears their young child may have.

Remember to get your child into the dentist at least once a year, if not twice! Routine dental checkups are important in order to prevent cavities and other oral health issues. These appointments also give parents the opportunity to learn more about healthy oral practices that they can encourage at home. 

Looking for resources?

Families with children ages five and younger can call Skagit County’s ABCD program at (360) 416-1500 for help finding dental care for their children. For families who quality, some benefits of the program include:

  • An initial dental exam
  • Two dental exams per year (6 months apart)
  • Three fluoride varnish applications per year
  • Two parent education sessions per child per year
  • Fillings and other dental work (as needed)  

For more information about the ABCD program, visit our webpage at: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/HealthFamily/dental.htm.


What Is Binge Drinking, Anyway?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

New year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone. Making big plans and setting high expectations for the months to come can seem too burdensome for some—and that’s totally fine! The beginning of a new year does present a good opportunity to reflect on the prior year, though. An opportunity to think about the things that we’d like to work on or change.

This past year was definitely a doozy, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some of our routines were uprooted or thrown out the window entirely. While, before last March, it might not have been acceptable to take a meeting in sweats, or to shower in the middle of the workday, we’ve adapted and made concessions out of pure necessity.

Perhaps, for some, one of these concessions has been around drinking habits. While it was once acceptable to have an occasional glass of wine over dinner or a few cocktails on the weekend, now a quaran-tini (or two) each night has become the standard.

While it’s perfectly fine to have a drink here and there, it is important to monitor one’s drinking habits. When does drinking become “too much,” and when do rates of consumption go from healthy to possibly dangerous?

Isolation, the disruption of routine, and an inability to use pre-COVID coping mechanisms can cause one to feel especially vulnerable during times of crisis. Partnered with other stressors like economic uncertainty or unemployment, an individual may be at increased risk of developing a reliance on alcohol or other substances in order to cope.

What is binge drinking?

Not everyone who drinks—even regularly—engages in binge drinking. Even still, the definition of “binge drinking” may surprise you.

Moderate drinking, for men, is drinking no more than 15 drinks per week and no binge drinking. For women, the limit is seven drinks per week, with no binge drinking.

Binge drinking, however, is defined as drinking five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men, and four or more drinks in that same two-hour period for women.

Note: Women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, meaning they have higher concentrations of it in their blood when they drink the same amount.

The CDC states that one in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge, with the highest percentage of binge drinking happening amongst 25-34 year olds. A person who binge drinks may or may not have an alcohol use disorder.

Recent Findings

A recent study published in the American Journal of Alcohol & Drugs Abuse reported that “thirty-four percent [of those studied] reported binge drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic.” It was also found that more binge drinkers increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic (60%) than non-binge drinkers (28%). And for every one-week increase in time spent at home during the pandemic, there were greater odds of binge drinking.

Also of note was that binge drinkers with a previous diagnosis of depression and current depression symptoms had greater odds of increased alcohol consumption compared to those reporting no depression.

Why can it be dangerous?

Binge drinking is associated with many short- and long-term health problems. Short-term side effects include:

  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Hangover
  • Shakiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Poor decision-making
  • Memory loss

From the American Addiction Centers, some long-term effects of repeated binge drinking include: alcoholism, brain damage, liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and even sexual dysfunction.

Tips for a healthier relationship with alcohol

Keep track. Whether you can keep track in your mind, or you need something in writing to help you monitor throughout the week, it may be a good idea to have a system in place. Did you have a few drinks over the weekend? Maybe take a break for a few days this week. Even taking a couple days off from alcohol can help your physical (and even mental) wellbeing!

Count and measure. Being your own bartender at home can surely be cost efficient, but it can also pose a challenge for proper measuring! According to NIAAA, a standard alcoholic drink is 12 ounces of regular beer (usually about 5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (typically about 12% alcohol), and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol). Keep these measurements in mind when pouring (and counting) drinks.

Set goals. Along these same lines, try setting some goals for yourself over the coming weeks. Maybe it isn’t realistic right now to cut out alcohol together. How about cutting out a drink here and there to start, and work your way into a healthier routine? Don’t get discouraged if you lapse or if you have to start over. Changing behaviors can be extremely difficult—but also entirely doable! Maybe set a goal with a friend or loved one so that you can work toward a common goal together, while also keeping one another accountable.

Find alternatives. If having a drink at 5 o’clock has become the norm recently, try replacing this habit with something else. Try taking a walk during this time, or taking a hot bath. If having a drink makes you feel calm, find something that provides a similar sensation. If you feel like a drink is a nice way to treat yourself after a long day, find something else that feels like a little reward. Just be sure not to replace one unhealthy habit with another!

Avoid “triggers.” A trigger can be anything that causes you to want to drink. This could be something stressful like watching the nightly news or scrolling social media. However, it can be something pleasurable like cooking a meal or video-chatting with a friend. It is important to recognize what your triggers are in order to plan for and work through it.

Remember non-alcoholic drinks. For some people, just having alcohol in the house can pose a difficulty in regulating consumption. If this is the case, move the alcohol out of the refrigerator, or avoid having it in the home altogether. Try having something in the fridge that you can go to instead when you’re craving a drink. Carbonated water (which comes in a variety of flavors) can be a nice go-to, or even diet soda.

Need more help?

Need a little extra help? That’s okay! The Washington Recovery Helpline is a great resource available to all Washingtonians who may be struggling with substance use. Call 1-866-789-1511 to speak with a specialist (available 24/7/365). You can also text this same number during Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for treatment options, resources, and referrals.

You can also access www.skagithelps.org for a list of helpful resources.


Make Health Your Priority: Tobacco Cessation in 2021

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By now, it is becoming clear that current and former smokers are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. A recent study has shown that people who smoked were nearly two times more likely to have negative outcomes from COVID-19. While more studies need to be conducted in order to understand the associated between nicotine users and COVID-19 infection rates, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the available evidence suggests that smoking is associated with increased severity of disease and death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Given the well-established harms associated with tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, medical experts are recommending that tobacco users stop using tobacco as soon as possible. By quitting these products (cigarettes, vaping devices, or smokeless products), your lungs and your immune system begin to improve quickly. Healthier lungs and a healthier immune system can help fight against COVID-19 infection and can protect individuals from becoming seriously ill.

There is no better time than the present. And with New Year’s just around the corner, there is no better way to begin 2021!

Thankfully, there are many resources available to Washingtonians when it comes to tobacco cessation. Here are some helpful resources to get you started on your cessation journey:

  • Quitline: Washingtonians age 13+ can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to speak confidentially with a Quit Coach in English, Spanish, or receive support in more than 200 other languages.
  • This is Quitting (TIQ), from Truth Initiative: This is an innovative text-to-quit vaping program for young people ages 13-24. TIQ helps motivate, inspire, and support young people throughout the quitting process. When young people join TIQ, they will receive proven tips and strategies to quit and stay off e-cigarettes and vapor products from other young people just like themselves who tried to quit. To enroll, teens and young adults can text VAPEFREEWA to 88709.
  • 2Morrow Health: This is a smartphone app that helps participants learn new ways to deal with unhelpful thoughts, urges, and cravings caused by nicotine. Participants receive notifications and can track their progress along the way in order to move toward their goal of quitting. The app is available in English and Spanish. Depending on your age and the tobacco product you are trying to quit, you can register for either of the smartphone apps below:
    • Smoking & Tobacco – A program for people who want to quit smoking and/or other tobacco use. A special program for pregnant women is included in this version.
    • Vaping (age 13+) – A program for teens and young adults who want to quit vaping. Older adults who want to quit vaping, but who do not smoke, can also use this program.

It may take many tries to quit. The important thing is not to give up. If 2020 has shown us anything, its that Washingtonians are a strong and capable bunch. Find your team, lean on your resources, and make a plan. You can do this!  


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.


Wellness During the Postpartum Period

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Considering how difficult the postpartum period was with my first child–how much I struggled with my mental health for months on end—it was a wonder that my husband and I decided to take the plunge again. So when we finally decided to have a second, we were both on high alert for any signs of depression or anxiety.

I knew that I needed to be cautious this time; after all, women who have experienced postpartum depression with previous births are 10% to 50% more likely to experience it again. Even still, there were parts of me that were certain that this time would be different, and that the worst was behind us.

What I came to find is that with each new child brings new challenges, both as a mom and as an individual. In the case of my second child, I realized that the timing of her birth (and my subsequent maternity leave) was a challenge that I had not anticipated.

You see, my first child was born in April—a time of budding flowers and warming temperatures. My second? She was born mid-November. I think it rained consistently for the first three months of her life!

Now that she’s coming up on her first birthday, I am reflecting on my recent postpartum period. What were some things that I did to keep my mental health in check? How did I—despite the potential odds—manage to cope with a newborn, even during the gloomy months?

Here are some things that I did that may be helpful to any new, or expecting, mom (and dad!) out there:

Make a Plan

There is so much preparation before having a baby: buying all the essential baby items, reading the books, taking the classes. But how about making a wellness plan? Perinatal Support Washington has an awesome template that breaks down wellness into a few different categories.

After all, wellness isn’t just one thing. There are so many ways to build up one’s resilience. Thinking about yourself holistically is important; what are you made up of? Consider the brain, the body, and the spirit. All are important for your overall wellbeing.

Lean On Your Person

One of the categories in the wellness template is your Support Team. How important these people are! During these complicated times, my heart goes out to all the new moms and caregivers out there who may not have the physical support of a family member or loved one.

I encourage new parents to think creatively. Your Support Team might not look the way you’d expected or wanted. The support may not come in the form that you’d envisioned. But who is in your circle of trusted people that can be your ally? It can be a husband, partner, parent, neighbor, or friend. Heck—it can be your healthcare provider!

The most important thing is that you have someone who checks in and who watches for potential trouble. Go over your mental health red flags with these individuals before the big day: What do you look like, sound like, or act like when things are getting too hard? And if they begin to notice anything, they need to feel empowered to make the call.

Practice Self-Care (no, really!)

This is way more easily said than done. Here are just a few things that I recommend and that worked for me:

  • Create structure out of chaos: Babies love routine; providing a bit of structure can even enhance your baby’s development! While it may not be feasible to break your day (and night) down to the minute, it can be useful to write down a flexible schedule. This is especially helpful for the days that seem to drag on—when all you seem to be doing is feeding a baby, changing diapers, and running the laundry.
    Apps like Vroom or Bright By Text can help you to fill your routine by providing simple ideas for activities that you can do with your little one.
  • Go outside: I cannot overstate this enough! Even when the days are drizzly and cold, bundle up and get some fresh air. After all, infants are the perfect walking companion. An infant carrier or wrap will mimic the feeling of being safe and cozy in the womb, and it will also allow you to be hands-free for a moment.
    My gloomy-day recommendation is to look up while you walk, instead of staring at the pavement. When you are exhausted and overwhelmed, it can be easy to feel weighted down. Even when the clouds are thick and there is no sun in sight, keep your gaze up and look at the trees, houses, and scenery around you.
  • Breathe: This was the best advice my midwife gave me when I was first struggling with postpartum anxiety. It is also something that I’ve carried with me since then, for whenever I am feeling overwhelmed.
    When we’re stressed or anxious, we forget to breathe deeply. But this is the easiest—and perhaps most effective—way to put yourself at ease. Try a deep breathing exercise to calm your nerves. Try breathing in through your nose for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, and exhale through your mouth for 6 counts. It really does help!
  • Take care of the essentials: This isn’t a novel idea, but it is also one of the first things that goes out the door when you bring a new baby home!
    YOU are the most important part of the equation. YOUR health and YOUR wellbeing directly impact your ability to care for your new baby. Eat well, drink lots of water, and try to get a little sleep. While it may not be eight (or even five) hour stretches, a 3-4 hour stretch can make a world of difference.
    A tip from me to you? Talk to your doctor about nutrition: What vitamins can help to elevate mood, and what foods are especially important during the postpartum period? Your body and hormones fluctuate on hyper-drive after giving birth, and eating well is so important.
  • Laugh and dance: I did not take this advice the first time around. I don’t think I laughed for six weeks after my first daughter was born. But with my second? I let my freak flag fly!
    Try doing something silly…after all, your baby won’t judge! Put some slippery socks on and see how far you can slide across your kitchen floor—just make sure to put the baby down first! Sing at the top of your lungs to songs that you haven’t heard since childhood, or listen to a funny podcast. You will find yourself laughing at yourself and the weird things that you do with little sleep and baby-brain. Embrace the weird.
    If all else fails, just smile. Smile at yourself in the mirror, smile at your baby, smile at your partner. Even if it feels phony at first, keep doing it!

Find Help

You are not alone in these feelings; it is normal to feel overwhelmed during the postpartum period. If nothing above seems to improve your mood, talk to your doctor. I urge you to not let mom guilt get in the way of your wellbeing—and I promise, there is little else stronger in this world than mom guilt.

Not ready to talk to a doctor just yet? That’s okay! There are resources available to you. Perinatal Support Washington’s website is a great place to start. Call or text their Warmline at 1-888-404-7763 to talk with a professional today.

Skagit County also has a great resource for new parents! Visit Welcome Baby to get connected up to local support groups, parenting classes, and assistance with basic needs.

You can and will get through this time. Yes, there are extra challenges right now and yes, the days seem long (and yet, so short). Even still, you are strong, capable, and so perfect for your little one. Give these tips a try, and give yourself some much needed grace.