From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We support Idahoans being as healthy and self-sufficient as possible

April 21, 2023
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

The Department of Health and Welfare is committed to optimizing health and preventing crises. We believe that all Idahoans should be as healthy and self-sufficient as possible. We believe it so much that it’s the third goal in our Strategic Plan.

There are several ways to support being as healthy and self-sufficient as possible, but we’ve settled on four objectives.

Reduce Idaho’s suicide rate.

  • The Suicide Prevention Program is working in local communities to support healthcare providers who are using Zero Suicide Institute trainings and programs. The goal is to have four pilot sites in Idaho by June 2024.
  • The Suicide Prevention Program is also working to improve state, tribal, and local capacity to use data to identify and address equity and risk disparities in high-suicide-risk populations.
  • The department also is supporting and increasing the use of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and behavioral health crisis centers in Idaho through partnerships and collaboration between separate programs in the department, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Action Collective, and the Idaho Crisis & Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Address health disparities in Idaho communities with strategies that focus on conditions where people live, work, and play.

  • The department has invested in two high-risk communities so far -- Elmore County - Western Idaho Community Health Collaborative (WICHC) and Bannock County - Southeastern Idaho United Way. Both communities provided an update on their activities recently. The Bannock County United Way of Southeastern Idaho’s team shared details about the new Ride United transportation service, which provided 500 miles of rides to Pocatello Free clinic and recovery center clients in February. The Elmore County team reported the Elmore County Commission approved a new Community Health EMS (CHEMS) position, and they will soon be ready to hire and implement the program. Extensive groundwork to build capacity and develop a CHEMS program suited for Elmore County has been ongoing for the past year and a half.
  • The department is collaborating across divisions to determine how Medicaid data and possibly other division’s data may be geo-coded to look at the impact of social determinants of health on the clients we serve. Ideally, these results would help drive prevention and intervention work in a more effective way. The group also discussed potential school-based data or other data our partners have that would be useful.
  • The Idaho Legislature approved a rule change to in the 2023 session to increase the Federal Poverty Limit to 175 percent, which will allow more working families to have childcare and maintain their employment.
  • Data analysts in the Division of Public Health have developed the GHI Index to provide an in-depth analysis of factors impacting community health. Indicators include measures of social vulnerability and social determinants of health at the census tract level. The GHI Index will be publicly available in May.

Prevent or reduce the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across the lifespan of Idahoans by creating a coordinated DHW program delivery framework.

  • The department has established a cross-division ACEs team and is in the process of identifying cross-divisional and collaborative efforts with internal and external partners.
  • The department has created a staff training program called How Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Impact Adult Health and Functioning. This program focuses on social-emotional learning to build awareness of how ACEs affect the health and daily lives of adults.
  • The department is in the initial stages of identifying opportunities to increase the number of trauma-informed providers in the state.

Reduce the department’s employee voluntary turnover rate.

  • The department is in the process of reviewing and updating its process for exit interviews for use in the development of a stay interview program. Staff have started using a new format for exit interviews for employees who have accepted new jobs outside the department.
  • The department is working with Idaho Division of Human Resources to start a leadership program for DHW’s current and future leaders.

You can read more about each of these objectives in our Strategic Plan.

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at 

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