Improving community health can also improve economic development.
So says Starke County Economic Development Special Projects Coordinator Ron Gifford. A community gathering held at the end of August by the organization Moving Starke County Forward brought some attention to drug overdoses, one of the area’s more serious health concerns.
Reducing drug use and drug overdoses in Starke County, MSCF is looking to improve the county’s rankings in the annual Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings report.
The effort, according to Gifford, also helps to attract prospective employers to the area.
“We feel that a lot of the work that they do helps us convince an industry that this is a good place to be because of what they’re trying to do to help improve the health of the people here,” says Gifford.
Community health factors are often considered when locating a business along with several other factors, including taxes, education, and workforce development.
Moving Starke County Forward looked further into the data – which, according to Gifford, had the reported drug overdoses had not taken place, Starke County would rank in the middle of Indiana counties as opposed to its current placement near the bottom. MSCF says the figures are slowly improving year-to-year.
Gifford says the speakers at the overdose awareness event shed some light on the issue.
“One of the gentlemen is now in his third year of recovery and freely spoke about his experiences and how he got where he was and what he’s done since,” says Gifford. “Even to the point that he was admitting he hadn’t been perfect in his three years of recovery.”
Starke County has reported a 50-percent drop in overdose deaths in the last two years compared to previous reporting periods.
Moving Starke County Forward places ribbons on the lawn of the hospital each year to remember those who have fallen victim to drug overdose.