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Local agencies assess community needs

Local agencies are working together to assess the needs of Lincoln County citizens, and they’re going straight to the source.
“Instead of trying to guess what the needs of the community are, they can tell us, and we can address it,” said Cristina Arlow, director of the Literary Council and a board member for the United Way of Lincoln County.
Citizens will get their voices heard through a comprehensive survey that includes questions on lifestyle, education, parenting, public safety and finance.
The survey will also include demographic questions on age, gender and race.
All this information will present a clearer view of Lincoln County, which will make it easier for area agencies to allocate money.
Having statistics to back up claims will also help these agencies receive state and federal grant money.
“It’s all about the numbers sometimes,” said Courtney Hilliard, community relations coordinator of Lincoln Medical Center.
Of course, before agencies can make use of such data, the citizens of Lincoln County have to fill out the surveys.
“We want a diverse response,” said Belinda Branson, health educator at the Lincoln County Health Department.
Because of this, the surveys will have pick up and drop off points throughout the county. It will also be distributed in Spanish.
“It is important that we get it from every sector of the community,” said Arlow.
Plans have already been made to distribute the surveys in churches, senior citizens groups and government agencies.
The Lincoln Medical Center has committed to having all employees and patients fill out the survey. Helping Hands Clinic and the Health Department have made a similar commitments.
Those who fill out the survey will answer questions about income and drug and alcohol use. At no point does the survey ask for identification.
“It’s totally anonymous so please be honest,” said Arlow.
The questions were formed by a number of agencies and were then slimmed down to a four page survey.
“We all joined together to get the survey formalized,” said Branson.
While the Health Department is required to do a complete community assessment every four years, an attempt of this magnitude has never been made before.
Branson expects anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 surveys to be filled out.
Besides having multiple choice questions, the survey also includes a section in which citizens can voice their complaints and concerns.
“To know what to do, we need to know what they think,” said Branson.
So far the following pick up and drop off points have been designated for the survey: Lincoln County Family YMCA, United Way of Lincoln County, Lincoln County Literacy Council, Lincoln County Libraries, Lincoln County Health Department, East Lincoln Recreation Department and the Lincoln Medical Center.
It can also be mailed to: Lincoln County Health Department, 151 Sigmon Road, Lincolnton, NC, 28092.
For more information call the Health Department at 704-736-8624.
by Sarah Grano

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