Healthier Morgan County Initiative Pushes For Long Term Changes In Community

The Healthier Morgan County Initiative held the Quality of Life & Wellness Fair in June at the Mooresville High School with activities and information for the entire family. Photo credit: Emily Metheny
Change is not something that can happen overnight, especially when habits are concerned. The Healthier Morgan County Initiative, a response that grew out of a study of residents’ health and welfare in the county, is working to make those long term changes.

Charles “Bud” Swisher, of the initiative, said it has been a slow process because one of the program’s greatest problems is public apathy when it comes to changing engrained habitats.

“We have to accept the fact, although we don’t like to do that, is that change is a long term proposition.We don’t see immediate results in some of the program areas that we are looking at, but we are still very confident that given enough time we will be able to change the cultural habits here in our community,” Swisher said.

Since the coalition’s creation in 2006, the Healthier Morgan County Initiative has created a large “advisory board” of citizen from different backgrounds and disciplines from all parts of the county.

“We meet regularly to look at the data and look at what programs to develop,” Swisher said.

Serving the community  


The food from the community garden programs goes to local missions. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

One of the programs the initiative organizes is the Quality of Life and Wellness Fair which was originally a health fair for seniors.  Through a survey, the coalition found the biggest issue seniors have in the county is loneliness.

“You would think it would be the lack of quality of medicine or the problem of falling that ranks very high, but in that survey, 11% of the respondents indicated they are very lonely,” Swisher said. “So we broadened the health fair to cover crafts and hobbies and activities that seniors could be involved in.”

From there, children’s activities were added with help from the Morgan County Leadership Academy  to make the health fair for the entire family including seniors, Swisher said.  

Another successful program offered is specifically for young people. The idea is to get students out walking to establish a healthy and active habit. Walking was chosen because it’s inexpensive and does not require special equipment.

"All of our public elementary schools in Morgan County plus one private school, a Christian school, participate in a program called Pound the Playground,” Swisher said. Each year, students participate in the program twice, once in the fall and again in the spring. 

In the last session, students walked over 45,000 miles in four weeks. That would make almost 90,000 miles more the children are walking every year with the program. Schools are rewarded with funds based on their placement, and the funds are used for the school’s health and wellness programs.

A third program that the Healthier Morgan County Initiative initiated is a community garden.
Last year, the two participating churches, Eastview Christian Church and Mt. Gilead,  produced over 4,300 pounds of food for missions in the county.

“Our next step is teaching them how to preserve and take care of that food, so we are trying to teach healthy production of your own food,” Swisher said. “We now have two more entities involved with us now so that program is growing really rapidly here in the county.”

Another key program the coalition helped establish was the collection of outdated prescription drugs, which Swisher said has been very successful for getting prescription drugs off the streets.

“Morgan County, along with other health issue, has been identified as one of five counties in Indiana that has the worst record in terms for drug abuse or the misuse of prescription drugs, so we are on our third year of a three year grant to take a look at programs of environmental strategies to get us out of the top five,” Swisher said.

Coming this fall


Photo Credit: Jared Keener via Compfight cc The Healthier Morgan County Initiative will offer a program this fall to help people recognize the telltale signs of someone considering suicide. 
This fall, the Healthier Morgan County Initiative will be holding a class in cooperation with St. Francis of Franciscan Health to teach people how to help prevent and reduce the number of suicides in the county. The class will include how to spot telltale signs of someone considering suicide 

“The suicide rate is very high here,” Swisher said. “We will follow this up with an evidence-based program called Mental Health First Aid. That’s a more extensive program that will teach principal first responders on how to deal with episodes of suicide in the county.”

While the Healthier Morgan County Initiative receives some money from the Ruth Lilly Charitable Trust and small groups, the Kendrick Foundation has been the principal funder. This year, the Healthier Morgan County Initiative received a grant for $79,000 for its programming.

“We recognize programs that we were able to enact over the last 8 or 9 years are directly a function of the Kendrick Foundation,” Swisher said. “Without that, we would not have been able to provide the programming that we had. We are very grateful to that.”

For the past couple of years, The Community Foundation of Morgan County has been serving the initiative by acting as its fiscal agent by handling all funds, providing good oversight in terms of funding accountability, and making sure the group remains on target in allocating its resources.

“It’s been a nice experience for us,” Swisher said. “We are only a couple years into the relationship, but their interest and commitment to helping us succeed has been very good and we are extremely grateful.”

Want to help the Healthier Morgan County Initiative do more?

Donations to the Healthier Morgan County Initiative can be made through the community foundation’s website. Thanks to the Lilly Endowment, donations will be matched 50 cents on the dollar.

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