ERMC Supports the Eaton Rapids Area Teen Initiative
May 3rd, 2017
The 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified important issues related to adolescent mental and physical health in our area that caused concern in our community.   These issues prompted a group of local citizens, including ERMC’s Lindsay Peters and Dawn Wartenbe, to form the Eaton Rapids Area Teen Initiative (ERATI).  The members are comprised of both adults and teens who began meeting in the fall of 2016 to discuss the importance of establishing a teen center in Eaton Rapids.  This team of individuals is committed to securing a location, funding, staffing and programming in support of the project.  The vision of ERATI “is for Eaton Rapids area teens to have a place to go that provides enrichment, security and learning during selected hours when school is not in session.”  Their mission “is to provide a safe environment and adult-led, youth-driven programming, tutoring, volunteer opportunities and social activities [in order for] teens [to] become successfully engaged in their families, schools and communities.”

We at Eaton Rapids Medical Center, in our commitment to support local organizations that promote the health, safety and wellness of residents within the community, have donated funds to ERATI to assist them in filing for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.  We believe that the CHNA demonstrated a need to impact the health of area teens in a positive way.  The Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth Survey (MiPHY 2013-2014) and the Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Mi YRBS 2011) indicated the percentage of Eaton County students who were obese as the highest in the tri-county area at 15.8%, which was 3.7% higher than the state average.  The same surveys also reported Eaton County adolescents who had symptoms of depression outranked Clinton and Ingham counties at 32.8%, which was 6.8% higher than the state average.  These middle and high school students stated that feeling sad or hopeless almost daily had so affected their health that they had stopped some of their usual activities.  They were overwhelmed by feelings which negatively affected their quality of life.  In fact, the MiPHY 2015-2016 showed a 5% increase since the previous survey in the number of ninth grade students who seriously considered attempting suicide and who had actually made a plan to take their own life.

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department and Eaton RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) have partnered with ERATI to develop evidence-based practices and programming for teens accessing the center.  The goal is to provide numerous opportunities that would engage students in activities in which they have an interest.  Responses ERATI received to a survey indicated that teens want food-related classes and demonstrations at the facility, tutoring, computer availability, safe social opportunities, art supplies and classes, and more.  The group hopes to establish Teen and Parent Advisory Boards, and is currently seeking members to assist with facility planning, personnel/policy development, fundraising/grants, and communications/technology.  Donations for supplies and furniture are needed, and monetary gifts for the project are being accepted by the Eaton Rapids Community Alliance (ERCA).

Members of the initiative developed a video in response to a grant opportunity from USA Today that can be viewed at http://act.usatoday.com/submit-an-idea/#/gallery/60467824/.  Several videos have been submitted for the contest in which viewers are asked to vote for the program they feel should receive up to $100,000.  Individuals may vote once each day until May 12.  Additional information about the project can be found at https://www.facebook.com/EatonRapidsTeens/.

As the local hospital in this area, we recognize the needs of our community and take the physical and mental health trends of our youth very seriously.  If you have an interest in learning more about ERATI, contact a member representative at ERTeenCenter@gmail.com, or at www.facebook.com/EatonRapidsTeens/ .