Pandemic Aid: New law temporarily expands services for foster youth and alumni

A new federal law now provides temporary funding to help foster youth and alumni of foster care with financial help and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, and provides expanded services for foster youth and alumni of foster care who are 14-26 years old. Nationally, foster youth and alumni of foster care have been advocating for additional supports and services to help them through the pandemic. Our national leaders and government officials listened, and temporary services for foster youth and alumni of foster care were included in the CAA.

This is very exciting news!

Some of the services foster youth and alumni may be eligible for under the temporary guidelines include:

  • Independent Living services to assist with basic needs like cash assistance for food, access to technology for school, and other expenses
  • Room and Board assistance – Idaho has additional and expanded resources to help alumni of foster care get into (or keep) housing
  • Transportation funding to help youth and alumni of foster care get a driver’s license, pay for insurance, take driver’s education, and more
  • Transitional Foster Care so that youth don’t have to age out of foster care during the pandemic
  • Re-entry into foster care for young adults under age 22 who aged out between Oct. 1, 2019, and April 20, 2021
  • Higher education aid – The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) limit is temporarily raised to up to $12,000 annually per individual
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From Director Dave Jeppesen: Listening to the public during a pandemic; All Idahoans 16 and older eligible for the vaccine on April 5

Listening to the public during a pandemic – and providing answers that make a difference

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has a long history of providing services and reliable information to Idahoans. Even so, we knew from the early days of the pandemic that we couldn’t simply rely on decades of experience and our tried-and-tested communication practices with Idahoans and our partners. This is because we have all faced new challenges every day, that have affected each of us in different ways. We realized we had to listen in new ways.

So last April, we made the most of what 2020 had to offer, and we took to communicating with digital formats. We began a new listening initiative, where we made our subject matter experts available to the public to answer questions. One of these initiatives makes Facebook Live videos a weekly priority. We invite questions from the public, and each week one of our staff members goes live on Facebook with their answers. Our communications staff keep an eye on the comments in the video feeds as well, and stay engaged to make sure we understand whether we are getting it right – are we answering your questions? Are we providing the information you need that will help you to navigate through these uncertain times?

We have broadcast 43 Facebook Live events since April 2020, and we continue to listen to questions and share information in the videos. The topics we cover depend on what we are hearing from Idahoans: Is the vaccine safe? How does the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System work? What is my vaccine priority group? What will the pandemic do to our mental health, and what can we do to cope?

We consider the questions and identify the experts within our ranks who know the answers. Depending on the questions we hear, our featured experts may specialize in immunizations, epidemiology, behavioral health, public health recommendations such as what kinds of gatherings are higher or lower in risk, and more.

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A Reminder from Director Dave Jeppesen: Choosing to get the COVID-19 Vaccine Will Protect Your Friends, Family, and Community

As we catch a glimpse of normalcy returning to Idaho, we are feeling a sense of hope due to the arrival of three effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines. March Madness is back, friends and family are planning summer vacations, and Sunday dinners with vaccinated grandparents are (mostly) back on schedule.

But hope is fragile. It is based on our belief systems and our choices. It is based on the expectation of a positive ending. In this case, the end of the pandemic.

Hope, for me, is based on the choices thousands of Idahoans are making every day. Idahoans are choosing to get the vaccine. They are choosing to protect their friends, family, and community. They are choosing to keep schools open, support local businesses, and believe in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

I am encouraging all Idahoans to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines have been tested by more than 70,000 Americans. Millions of Americans have now received the vaccine. It is safe and effective.

Continue reading “A Reminder from Director Dave Jeppesen: Choosing to get the COVID-19 Vaccine Will Protect Your Friends, Family, and Community”

COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System

Join us at 10 a.m. Wednesday on Facebook Live when DHW Deputy Director Lori Wolff will discuss Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System, and then will take questions from viewers. https://www.facebook.com/IdahoHealthandWelfare

Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System allows Idahoans, and those who work in Idaho, who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to save their names to a statewide list that is available to vaccine providers who have open appointments and COVID-19 vaccine. People can add their names at any time, whether they are currently eligible or not, and a provider will contact them when it’s their turn and there is an open appointment.

The statewide schedule for vaccines has been updated to our website and opens vaccine according to the following schedule:

  • March 15: Age 55-64 with at least one medical condition*
  • March 22: Age 55-64 general population
  • March 29: Age 45-54 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 5: Age 45-54 general population
  • April 12: 16 – 44 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 26: Age 16 – 44 general population

Medical conditions are defined as “are at increased risk” and “might be at increased risk” per the CDC. Visit the CDC to see a full list of conditions that qualify as a medical condition. In addition, disabilities are also included as a medical condition. 

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Marking the milestone one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Idaho

The one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Idaho is coming up on Saturday, March 13.

For many of us, it’s been the longest year of our lives. We’ve sacrificed gatherings with family and friends, hugs and in-person time with grandma and grandpa and other people at high-risk for serious illness, as well as travel and vacations. We have learned to work from home, or had our work dramatically reduced or stopped, and had our lives mostly upended by this insidious virus.

Many of us weren’t able to watch our kids at their sporting events and competitions. We’ve worn masks whenever we’re in public places where we can’t maintain at least 6 feet between us.

And too many of us have made the greatest involuntary sacrifice of all with the COVID-related death of a loved one.

I want to thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve made in the past year because of the pandemic. I know it has not been easy.

But I am encouraged by recent trends in COVID-19 data. Testing percent positivity is less than 5 percent and has been for the past couple of weeks. Case numbers have fallen and now seem to be leveling off. Hospitalizations have decreased. The number of Idahoans getting vaccinated increases each day.

Every day, we’re getting closer to getting back to normal.

Continue reading “From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Marking the milestone one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Idaho”

COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Idaho received 13,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine the week of March 1. We are not expecting additional shipments of the vaccine until late March, based on information from the manufacturer and the federal government. It was approved under Emergency Use Authorization on Feb. 27, 2021. On Feb. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of the vaccine in people 18 years and older.

Adding Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine to our toolbox means more people can get vaccinated, which increases the overall population protected from severe disease, hospitalization, and even death.

Having different types of vaccines available for use, especially ones with different dosing recommendations and storage and handling requirements, can offer more options and flexibility for the public and vaccine providers.

Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose recombinant (combined genetic material) vector (vehicle) vaccine. Recombinant vaccines use one virus to carry a small piece of genetic material from another virus to trigger an immune response in the body. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus to carry the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) spike protein genetic material. The virus can enter cells but can’t replicate inside them or cause illness. The body’s immune system detects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and generates antibodies. 

It does not require ultra-cold storage, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do. Storage and handling of this vaccine is similar to many other vaccines. It must be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 36°- 46°F (2°-8°C). It is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.

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A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System launched today

Due to overwhelming demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, many Idahoans have been unable to make an appointment to get a vaccination. Overwhelmed phone lines and websites at the public health districts and enrolled provider organizations has been frustrating for Idahoans. They have expressed their frustration on social media, in emails, and in phone calls.

Gov. Brad Little announced today through a press release that the State of Idaho has created a new COVID-19 vaccine appointment pre-registration solution to help alleviate the frustration of many Idahoans in trying to make an appointment to get the vaccine. The new system, called Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System, makes it easy for Idahoans to put their names on a waiting list.

This system allows Idahoans (and those who work in Idaho) who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to save their names to a statewide list. Vaccine providers can then easily find people who want the vaccine. By adding your name to the list, you are telling vaccine providers that you are interested in receiving the vaccine. You can add your name now, and you will be notified when you are eligible to receive the vaccine and a provider has vaccine available.

The new COVID-19 vaccine appointment pre-registration system is available at https://covidvaccine.idaho.gov/.

The new system is user-friendly. The instructions are in plain language. It was been built from the ground up, specifically for Idahoans.

I want to echo Gov. Little’s words – all Idahoans who choose to get the COVID-19 will be able to do so. It is our top priority.

One quick reminder: if you are in a priority group that is currently receiving the vaccine (e.g. 65 and older), make sure you pre-register through the new system so that an enrolled provider in your area can reach out to you and schedule your vaccine appointment.

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COVID-19 pandemic is causing behavioral health challenges for Idahoans. We can help!

As we near the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Idaho, it’s important for everyone to know that feeling a little down or unmotivated is not unusual at this point. It’s been a long year, and we still have a ways to go before things get back to normal.

The Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) in the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is continually thinking about how to better serve the evolving needs of mental health providers and the public, especially during this pandemic. DBH created a statewide COVID19 Strike Team in April 2020 that meets a few times a week to address our needs during the growing public and behavioral health emergency related to the pandemic.

DBH has a variety of services to offer Idahoans who might be struggling with the stress of the pandemic.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to prevent suicide in Idaho; Requiring proof of residency or work for COVID-19 vaccination

Training 25,000 Idahoans to help prevent suicide

Suicide is a critical public health issue in Idaho. It brings tragic loss to families, friends, schools, and entire communities across the state each year. In 2018, Idaho had the 5th highest suicide rate in the U.S. There were nearly 24 suicides per 100,000 Idahoans. Despite this dark statistic, we can progress toward a brighter future because suicide is preventable.

Everyone in Idaho has an important role to play in changing these statistics. We, at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), are working toward a future where there are zero suicides in Idaho.

In our work toward this goal, one of our DHW strategic objectives is to reduce Idaho’s suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025. Part of this goal includes helping to deliver suicide awareness and prevention training, alongside our partners, to 25,000 Idahoans between 2018 and June 30, 2021. And we are nearly there. As of Feb. 11, we are 91 percent of the way to this goal; 22,763 Idahoans have participated in the training programs offered through our partnerships.

Continue reading “An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to prevent suicide in Idaho; Requiring proof of residency or work for COVID-19 vaccination”

COVID-19: New services for Idahoans who want to quit tobacco

All Idahoans who want to quit tobacco products, including cigarettes, chew, and vapes, have access to free programs to help them on their quit journey. In addition to the current programs for adults, youth, pregnant women, and tribal members who have decided it’s time to quit, the Department of Health and Welfare and Project Filter are pleased to provide a free and enhanced tobacco cessation program for adults 18 and older who are living with conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, and substance use disorders.

Communities are facing increased mental health challenges during the pandemic, including stress, depression, suicidal ideation, and higher substance use. Quitting tobacco improves mental health and can provide people with the tools to quit other substance addictions as well.

People who report mental health and substance use disorders also have higher rates of tobacco use and lower rates of quitting. In fact, more than one-third of all tobacco used in the United States is consumed by people who also have a behavioral health condition.

More than half of QuitLine callers report at least one condition and nearly 1 in 3 callers report multiple behavioral health conditions that impact their ability to quit tobacco. People with behavioral health conditions may want to quit, but they often need more intensive support to help with stress.

As part of the new program, participants receive:

  • Seven scheduled telephone coaching sessions over three months, focused on coping techniques to manage stress, and development of a personalized quit plan.
  • Specially trained tobacco treatment coaches who understand behavioral health conditions.
  • Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) for 8 weeks with combinations of patch, gum, or lozenges.
  • A personalized welcome package including educational materials and the My Quit Journey© workbook.
  • A suite of eHealth services to supplement telephone coaching, including customized email and text messages, online chat, and interactive online resources.
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