Every Step of the Way: National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When we envision a newborn baby and mother, most people will instantly conjure up an image of mommy and baby sitting quietly in a cozy chair, looking at one another with love-filled eyes. Both are calm and content, happily playing their given roles.

For those who haven’t experienced infant feeding first-hand, it is no wonder that this image is considered the norm! This image of the peaceful pair is what is typically depicted in TV shows and movies. It is also—incredibly enough—the type of image that appears in so many pregnancy books and gynecologist offices.

It is not surprising that many parents first entering the journey of child-rearing expect the act of breastfeeding—or any feeding, for that matter—to be so much easier than it actually can be.

When I had my first child, I was astounded by the fact that it took my body two days to get the memo that the baby had been born. I sat up those first to nights in tears thinking that my baby would starve to death under my watchful care. Though I had read in the books that it could take a few days before one’s milk came in, when living it, all those words go right out of the window. And while those first few weeks were bumpy at best, it did get easier in time. 

Now, two children in and several years wiser, I know two things to be certain:

1. Breastfeeding can be extremely rewarding; and 

2. Breastfeeding can be extremely challenging!

This month, people across the United States are celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. While this is a time for people to celebrate the act of breastfeeding, it is also an opportunity for people to stop and think about what each and every one of us can do to make breastfeeding a bit easier for parents and caregivers.

In preparation for this year’s awareness month, a group of Skagitonians have gotten together to draft a proclamation declaring August as National Breastfeeding Month. In this proclamation, the Skagit County Breastfeeding Coalition recognizes the abundant health and bonding benefits of breastfeeding, while also recognizing how difficult breastfeeding can sometimes be for parents and caregivers in our community.

While I struggled to adjust to motherhood during those early days…the football hold, the latching, the midnight pumping, the many tears…I was thankful for the those who supported me in my breastfeeding journey. There are so many things that can act as a barrier to breastfeeding and can jeopardize a person’s chances at a happy and sustainable breastfeeding experience. Our friends, family, work environment, and policies can all affect the likelihood that a parent will continue to breastfeed; an important fact that was never once covered in my pregnancy books.

In Skagit County, there are resources and supports available to new parents—many of which are breastfeeding-positive and inclusive. That said, it is the hope of this proclamation, and this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, that many barriers to breastfeeding that currently exist in our community are removed in the days, months, and years to come.

Are you pregnant, preparing for a baby, or a new parent?

For a list of local resources—classes, support groups, clinics, and home visiting programs—go to: https://skagitbreastfeeding.org/resources/.

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Proclamation Recognizing August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month | SKAGIT COUNTY
Tuesday, August 10th at 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
This event is open to the public!
Attend virtually: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/CountyCommissioners/main.htm#A
Attend in-person: Commissioner’s Hearing Room, 1800 Continental Place, Suite 100
Mount Vernon, WA 98273.
Masks are required for all individuals 5 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.


Attention Employers: We Need Your Help, Too!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When people talk about “workplace culture,” they’re talking about what makes a workplace unique, including its values, traditions, behaviors, attitudes, etc. Typically, the employer sets the tone in a workplace, and a positive workplace culture impacts the happiness, and even performance, of its employees. Simply enough, an employer has a major influence over the health and wellbeing of their workforce. And when it comes to COVID-19, employers play a critical role in the prevention of COVID-19.

One of the biggest impacts an employer can have right now in regards to COVID-19 prevention is making sure that their staff have the necessary information about the COVID-19 vaccine. On April 15th, all Washingtonians 16 years and older became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning that many more people will be able to get the vaccine if they so choose. If you are an employer, read on for three tips to help your employees get their vaccine.

1. Have credible information available

You don’t need to be a doctor to put forth credible information. The idea of starting a conversation with staff about COVID-19 or the vaccine may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! When staff has a question or concern, it’s a one-two punch: 1) Offer your personal reasons for practicing COVID safety and getting vaccinated; and 2) Defer to the experts for specifics.

There are many great resources available online for business owners! From FAQs with answers to commonly asked questions, to resource pages with pre-made flyers for the breakroom; sites like WA Department of Health and the CDC have you covered!

2. Provide information about where they can access the vaccine

Please let your employees know that it is easier now than it has ever been to access a COVID-19 vaccine. For those who live locally, there are many vaccine providers in Skagit that consistently have appointments available, including Public Health, hospitals, clinics, and neighborhood pharmacies.

The easiest way to provide information about access is to promote WA DOH’s vaccine locator page. Here, folks can easily find a nearby provider and schedule an appointment online. If staff needs a bit more assistance, they can call the Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127. Language assistance is available.

To schedule an appointment at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic, people can go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call the Vaccine Hotline for assistance, (360) 416-1500. Evening and weekend appointments are available, as well as a free child-watching service provided by the Children’s Museum of Skagit County!

3. Allow employees time to get the vaccine

Some people may be less likely to schedule a vaccine appointment because they are worried about taking the time off. Though appointments are now available in Skagit County on evenings and weekends in order to better serve our workforce, people still may be hesitant because of fear of side effects and needing time off work 24-48 hours post-vaccine. Employers can make a big impact here!

Health and safety are big business! Providing the time and opportunity for employees to get vaccinated is an investment in the safety, productivity and health of your workforce. Even still, the idea of providing this time may seem impossible as you may feel strapped as it is. Thankfully, some help is coming.

On April 21, President Biden called on every employer in America to offer full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination. A paid leave tax credit will assist in offsetting the cost for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full pay for any time their employees need to get a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from that vaccination. For more information about the new tax credit, go to https://bit.ly/2QvtGcN.

For more information

Most likely you will get some questions that you may not know the answer to—or you may have questions yourself! This is to be expected! The Washington Department of Health has created a list of Frequently Asked Questions just for employers on its website.

Below are just a few answers from that FAQ that may be helpful:

How do I get a vaccine provider to come to my business?

Contact Skagit County Public Health (360-416-1500) to see if there are mobile clinics, pharmacies, or community vaccinators available in your area to partner with for hosting at the worksite.

You may need to consider the number of eligible employees you have who have not been vaccinated yet. With limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, there may be more demand than supply available. Some vaccine providers may require a certain number of people to justify holding a workplace clinic.

Do fully vaccinated staff still need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others?

The COVID-19 vaccines work well, but they are not 100 percent effective. Some people may get COVID-19 even if they’ve been vaccinated. Vaccine studies focused mainly on whether the vaccine keeps you from getting COVID-19. We don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent someone from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people. Until we know more, all employees should continue to:

  • Wear masks
  • Stay at least 6 feet (or 2 meters) away from others
  • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash hands often
  • Keep WA Notify enabled

If able to, should I have employees stagger their vaccinations to avoid work shortages due to vaccine side effects?

It’s a good idea if you can. Most side effects are mild (tiredness, headache, and muscle pain) and last one to two days. However, some people may get a fever and need to miss work. For vaccines that need two doses, side effects are often worse after the second dose. You may want to distribute this visual guide to employees so they can understand what symptoms are a reaction to the vaccine, or actual COVID-19 illness.

Tips and considerations:

  • Schedule the vaccine clinic on a Friday if your company is on a Monday to Friday schedule
  • Encourage employees to get the vaccine before their scheduled days off
  • Stagger vaccination for employees in the same job category or area of a facility
  • Encourage employees who have a fever to stay home from work

Can I require my employees to get vaccinated or to show proof of vaccination?

Washington state does not have any mandates for getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but employers may choose to require it. If you require employees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or healthcare provider, you should know that you cannot mandate that the employee provide any further medical information as part of their proof.

You, as an employer, have such a unique opportunity to engage with employees around the issue of COVID-19 safety and vaccination. Please let Public Health know if you need any support in this endeavor, and we will do everything that we can to make this an easy process! THANK YOU!


Get Familiar with the Family Resource Center!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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?

The Family 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.


Let’s Talk About It…Domestic Violence During COVID-19

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Guest blog post by staff at Skagit DVSAS

This past month of October, we at Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (Skagit DVSAS) participated in Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Purple Thursday, October 15th, we asked the community to join us in wearing purple in support of survivors. Using social media, we were able to come together to raise awareness for domestic violence in our community. Skagit community members joined us in showing support by sharing pictures of themselves wearing purple to our Facebook page, helping to raise awareness and show survivors that Skagit cares.

October may be over, but we know that domestic violence is not. We also know that the community still cares, now, and every month of the year! At Skagit DVSAS, we believe that we all have the power to end abuse through our individual and collective efforts. Abuse can be a difficult and scary topic for a lot of us, and it is okay not to know where to start.

Let’s Talk

The first thing we can all do to prevent and put an end to abuse in our community is to start talking about it! Talking about domestic violence raises awareness, and increases understanding for those going through it. There are many myths and stigmas that surround interpersonal violence and make survivors feel that they are not believed or valid. We can challenge those stigmas by letting people know that abuse is a very real thing in many people’s lives, and that it is never the survivors’ fault. Talking about domestic violence can also look like sharing community resources with others, such as our Skagit DVSAS 24-hour crisis hotline for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Red Flags

Another way to take action against domestic violence in our daily lives is to learn about red flags that may indicate someone is experiencing violence in their life. When we know what signs to look for, we are better able to support our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Red flags can be both physical and behavioral. Someone who is experiencing abuse may have unexplained bruises or other injuries, sudden onset of pain and illness, or chronic pain. They may isolate themselves, or never want to be alone, may experience anxiety, depression, panic, dissociation, anger, hostility, and low self-esteem. They might also be nervous to be around their partner and can be hypervigilant or the opposite.

This is just a short list of some of the signs that someone is experiencing abuse, but the most important red flag to pay attention to is any sudden or unexplained change in behavior. When you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, trust it! Checking in about what is going on lets the person experiencing abuse know that there is someone who cares about them and is concerned for their safety.

If you know someone who has previously experienced abuse or is currently experiencing abuse, the most powerful way you can support them is to believe their story, validate their feelings, and allow them to make their own decisions. Domestic violence is the abuse of power in a relationship that takes control away from the survivor. When we allow them to make their own choices, we can help to give that power back.

Show Support

Finally, you do not have to be an expert in domestic violence to support survivors! You only need to be a caring friend, neighbor, or community member. If the person you are supporting would like to talk to someone who is an expert, we at Skagit DVSAS are always available. DVSAS can provide emotional support, crisis intervention, safety planning, support groups, legal and medical advocacy, and emergency shelter. We have Spanish speaking advocates and interpretive services, as well as community prevention education services available for schools and community groups. DVSAS serves everyone regardless of age, sex, identity, and immigration status, and all of our services are free and confidential. Please do not hesitate to reach out and to share us as a resource. We are still open and serving the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and are providing all of our services over the phone. Our professionals at DVSAS can be reached at (360) 336-9591 for questions, support, and for arranging community education events online.

We believe in the power of knowledge, resources, and community action to put an end to domestic violence in our community.


SkagitRising: A New Opioid & Substance Use Resource

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Watch out, there is a new resource website in town!

Last week, Skagit County officially announced the launching of a new website pertaining to local opioid and substance use resources. This website is called SkagitRising and was created in partnership between Skagit County Public Health, the Population Health Trust and the Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team, to connect community members to pertinent behavioral health information and services. SkagitRising aims to provide community members—a.k.a you and me—with educational information, harm reduction/prevention techniques, local resources, tips for supporting others, and more.

Don’t know if SkagitRising houses the information you are looking for? Keep reading!

The Motivation Behind SkagitRising

In 2015, Public Health conducted a Community Health Assessment, and the community clearly identified the opioid crisis as a main public health concern. Over the last five years, Public Health, the Population Health Trust and the Opioid Workgroup Leadership Team have advocated for and acted on a variety of programs, services and policies to improve the lives of individuals impacted by substance use. One of the goals that these groups advocated for was the creation of an interactive, virtual “hub” that would make it easier to gain information and access to support services. SkagitRising is the result of this goal.

Navigating the behavioral health* system can be challenging. If you’ve done it, or know someone who has, then you know what I mean. SkagitRising breaks down barriers to accessing information and presents local resources and support services in an attempt to reduce stigma and the impact of substance use in our community.

*Behavioral health is a common Public Health term that encompasses both mental health and substance use disorders.

How to Access SkagitRising

To access SkagitRising, either type or copy and paste www.skagitrising.org into your browser’s address bar (also known as the URL bar). You can also search “skagitrising.org” or “skagitrising” using Google or a similar platform, and the website should auto populate as one of the first search results. SkagitRising is both browser and mobile friendly. If you have an internet connection, you should be able to access the website without any problem.

How to Know if SkagitRising Has Information for You

Are you interested in learning more about opioids, opioid use disorder or substance use disorders? Do you currently use either prescription or recreational drugs? Do you have a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who uses prescription or recreational drugs? If you answered “yes” to any of these three questions, then this website is for you. AND even if you didn’t answer “yes,” this website is still worth checking out.

When visiting skagitrising.org, you will find an abundance of information. You can:

  • Review data
  • Learn how opioids impact the brain
  • Find out common symptoms of addiction
  • Read tips for talking to your doctor, kids and/or elders
  • Learn how to help in an opioid overdose and how to reduce stigma
  • Read about treatment terms and types
  • Discover resources and support services
  • Find out what is being done in Skagit County
  • Find ways that you can get involved

P.S. There are more topics than those just listed … but I can’t give is all away! You’ll have check out SkagitRising for yourself.

Resources

While SkagitRising is an opioid and substance use resource website, we understand there are many factors that influence an individual’s ability to live a healthy life. This is why you will find resources not only pertaining to treatment and recovery, but also housing, urgent care, legal, veterans, and senior services. SkagitRising also offers resources for employers, community members and property owners, and medical providers and prescribers.  

Additionally, throughout SkagitRising, you will see several sections of text or images that are linked to external reputable websites such as stopoverdose.org, the WA Recovery Helpline, the WA State Department of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Help spread the word! Please consider sharing SkagitRising by word-of-mouth, by posting about this website on social media or by displaying SkagitRising Rack Cards (available in English and Spanish) in your place of business.

If you would like to request Rack Cards, add to or edit the listed resources, or have questions, please contact us here: https://skagitrising.org/contact/