Recent statistics show that 10.4 percent of Worcester County residents are living below the poverty level.

And for those individuals, basic needs, trickling all the way down to safe and healthy living conditions, are not easy to obtain.

Fortunately, three local agencies have teamed up to help.

The Healthy Homes Initiative — a partnership between Chesapeake Housing Mission, Atlantic General Hospital and the Worcester County Health Department — is a three-pronged approach to reducing the number of unsafe and unhealthy living conditions in low-income Worcester County homes.

“Living in that situation it’s often very difficult to find the funds to do even basic home repairs,” said Sally Dowling, the president of medical affairs and interim president of Atlantic General Hospital, during a news conference Wednesday announcing the partnership.

“With this initiative we aim to increase the awareness of the social determinants of health in our community and focus on improving our population’s health by impacting their home living environment,” she added.

Through the program, Chesapeake Housing Mission — an organization that provides housing repair services to low-income families in the Chesapeake Region— will provide critical home repair services to county residents living below the poverty level. The contributions include designing, obtaining permits and providing all materials for the projects.

Hospital staff will provide employee work teams to complete projects and reimburse CHM for materials for each project. The Worcester County Health Department will collaborate with CHM to screen vulnerable adults who may be in need of critical home repairs, and work on a training program on home safety and health.

Don Taylor, the executive director of CHM, said Wednesday that the simple act of initiating this type of partnership has the potential to create significant positive impacts on those that are served.

For example, he said in the 11 years that the housing initiative has been operating, efforts have reduced falls in homes by 95 percent, emergency room admission by 30 percent, and hospital costs by 11 percent.

“You as a taxpayer, you don’t want people in the hospital,” he said. “It does make sense to keep them in their house a long as we possibly can.”

In Worcester County, Dowling said CHM has repaired 91 homes in Worcester County alone over the last six years, however needs still exist.

“It’s a huge number but it only translates to 3.8 percent of the need,” she said.

With the new partnership, Dowling said she hopes more of these types of gaps are filled.

“Healthy Home Initiative fits perfectly with our longterm for teaching initiative and we are committed to and excited to provide the necessary resources to support our community,” she said.

This story appears in the print version of the Ocean City Today on Oct. 8.

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