An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on protecting our children, youth, and vulnerable adults

DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward Goal 2 – Protecting children, youth, and vulnerable adults

As the department continues to develop our five-year Strategic Plan, which we will submit to the Division of Financial Management in July, we have also been able to take a few moments to reflect on the journey behind us. When we look over the completed tasks and challenges overcome over the past year, we feel we have cause to celebrate how far we have come in helping Idahoans to live their best lives.

Today’s post is the second in a four-part series highlighting the department’s progress toward our mission and the goals we have committed to in our Strategic Plan. In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements over the past year that have been accomplished as part of Strategic Goal 2: Protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults. In a difficult year, the importance of this goal has never been more apparent. Our staff have worked diligently to make sure that Idaho’s children, youth, and vulnerable adults are protected – especially during such a challenging time for all of us.

Continue reading “An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on protecting our children, youth, and vulnerable adults”

From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A year of progress toward affordable, available healthcare that works

DHW’s Living Strategic Plan: A year of progress toward ensuring affordable, available healthcare that works

Each year, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), along with all other State of Idaho agencies, submits a five-year Strategic Plan to the Division of Financial Management. Our Strategic Plan is our roadmap. We use it as a tool to define and share who we are as an agency, what our goals are, and how we plan to get there. We are currently in the process of making our final reflections on our 2021 – 2025 plan, as we work toward the publication of our 2022 – 2026 Strategic Plan in July.

Over the past year, we have worked hard to take our roadmap one step further in our mission of strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. We have reimagined our Strategic Plan as a “living” document – imagine, rather than the old days of a printed MapQuest page, we are now in the age of a GPS Google Map that follows our progress in real time and allows us to problem-solve and find new opportunities as we move forward on our journey.

The department’s leadership team has led this effort towards a living Strategic Plan by never letting the dust settle; we take our plan off the shelf each week to review our progress as a department, and we work as a team to set and achieve ambitious accountability targets throughout the year.

In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight and celebrate some of the key achievements over the past year that have been accomplished as part of the first of our four strategic goals. Throughout June, I will continue this reflection with blog posts focusing on our second, third, and fourth strategic goals.

Continue reading “From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A year of progress toward affordable, available healthcare that works”

As Idaho rebounds from pandemic, effects on mental health, substance use remain

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. More than a year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Idaho has reached Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds reopening guidelines, Idahoans are still struggling from stress and feel overwhelmed by the trauma that the pandemic brought.

A survey of adults conducted in 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed nearly double the rates of self-reported behavioral health symptoms than would have been expected before the pandemic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, including:

  • 31 percent of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 13 percent reported having started or increased substance use
  • 26 percent reported stress-related symptoms
  • 11 percent reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Behavioral Health provides a range of services for eligible people struggling with mental illness or addiction (substance use disorder) issues, including specific programs for people impacted directly or indirectly by the pandemic.

Continue reading “As Idaho rebounds from pandemic, effects on mental health, substance use remain”

COVID-19 Q&A: COVID-19 and long-term-care facilities


Q: When will the state allow long-term care facilities to open up visitation?

A:  There are currently no state regulations limiting visitation in long-term care facilities. Nursing homes must follow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) visitation guidance for nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. DHW has published similar visitation guidance and best practices for assisted living and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICFs/IID) under the Long-Term-Care tab at coronavirus.idaho.gov

Actual visitation policies are set by each facility and may vary, depending on the circumstances. If a facility is not currently having an outbreak of COVID-19, then it will have more relaxed visitation policies in place. If there are cases of COVID-19 in a facility, then we would expect that facility to have restrictions in place until the outbreak has been closed. That could take at least 28 days, because an outbreak in a long-term care facility is considered resolved after 28 days without any new cases of COVID-19.  

If you have questions about visitation policies, you should direct them to the facility itself.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: COVID-19 and long-term-care facilities”

COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s vaccine distribution plan

Coming up at 10 a.m. Wednesday: Facebook Live with Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program. Send your vaccine distribution questions ahead of time to Communications@dhw.idaho.gov or watch live on Wednesday and type your vaccine distribution questions into the comments. We will answer as many on-topic questions as we can until 10:25, when Sarah has to join another meeting. We’ll consider off-topic questions for future FB Live events. Join us!

Q: When is COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Idaho and how many doses will the state get initially?

A: COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is arriving in Idaho this week, and by the end of the week the state is expecting to have received all or most of our initial allotment of 13,650 doses of the ultra-cold vaccine. The initial shipments are for healthcare workers, and then later this month, residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

Q: Who gets COVID-19 vaccine first?

A: Phase 1a includes healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Skilled nurses and those working in assisted living and intermediate care facilities are counted as healthcare workers in this phase.

More specifically, the initial shipment of vaccine is destined for hospital staff and outpatient clinic staff who provide care for COVID-19 patients. The facilities will determine a schedule for their workers.

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (CVAC) has made recommendations on which populations should be prioritized for Phase 1b. The decision will ultimately be made by Gov. Brad Little.

CVAC is recommending that Phase 1b of the vaccination plan include essential workers not included in Phase 1a. CVAC is recommending the following types of essential workers be prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1b in the following order:

  • First responders, including fire, police, protective services and community support personnel.
  • Pre-K-12 school staff and teachers and daycare workers
  • Correctional and detention facility staff, except medical staff already in Phase 1a
  • Food processing workers
  • Grocery and convenience store workers
  • Idaho National Guard
  • Other essential workers not already included and unable to telework or social distance at work

The list of recommended priority groups can be found on the coronavirus website at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/CVAC-Prioritization-for-HCP-and-Essential-Workers.pdf

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s vaccine distribution plan”

From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A reminder on to safely celebrate the upcoming holidays and an update on our strategic plan

How are you preparing for the upcoming holidays? If you are like me, you are looking forward to decorating the tree, seeing the light displays in your neighborhood, pumpkin pie, and spending time with family.

I want each of you to enjoy the upcoming season. And even more than that, I want everyone to be safe during their holiday celebrations. I know we all want to spend the holidays with our families. And, I know we also want to keep our loved ones safe and healthy.

What we know today is that most of the new COVID-19 cases in Idaho are coming from smaller gatherings. These gatherings create transmissible moments as families and friends spend time in close proximity to one another.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions gives numerous tips on how to celebrate safety. I hope you will take time to review them as you plan for the holiday season. And, keep reading my blog for ideas and reminders about the holidays.

Making progress toward Strategic Goal 2: Protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults

Finding safe, permanent homes for children who have experienced abuse or neglect is a top priority for the work we do at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW). Children who have experienced trauma need and deserve permanency in their living situations in order to heal, develop, and thrive. Lack of permanency and stability is detrimental to children’s sense of safety, security, and overall well-being.

Continue reading “From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A reminder on to safely celebrate the upcoming holidays and an update on our strategic plan”

COVID-19 Q&A: Flu vaccine, COVID numbers, and more

Q: Does the flu vaccine make it more likely that people will get COVID-19?

A: The flu vaccine does not make people susceptible to COVID-19. There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.

In fact, getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and the people you spend time with from getting the flu, which is also a serious illness.

Some of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are to wear a mask and avoid spending long periods of time indoors with people who don’t live with you.

More information on the flu vaccine and COVID-19 is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Flu vaccine, COVID numbers, and more”

Annual art and expression contest celebrates kinship care in Idaho: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

In the midst of what we are collectively experiencing because of the global pandemic, there are those who continue to open their hearts and homes to Idaho children when their parents are unable to do so. These kinship families have my sincerest appreciation. We are very grateful for them.

My Family. My Story. is an annual event that the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has sponsored for 10 years. It is an art and expression contest that is open to children and youth who have ever been in kinship care in Idaho. Kinship care is when children are cared for by relatives or very close friends of the family when their parents are unable to care for them.

Continue reading “Annual art and expression contest celebrates kinship care in Idaho: A message from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend Safely and Responsibly: A Reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

As we approach this Labor Day weekend, I want to remind all Idahoans to minimize the risk of COVID-19 “transmissible moments” by wearing masks or cloth face coverings, washing your hands often, and keeping a physical distance of six feet when outside your home.

I know that holiday weekends are often a time for family or community gatherings, but I am encouraging you to celebrate safely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our risk for COVID-19 increases at events and in-person gatherings as follows:

  • Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
  • More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least six feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
  • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.
Continue reading “Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend Safely and Responsibly: A Reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Wear a mask in support of Idaho’s economy

As you know, Gov. Brad Little announced yesterday that Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of the reopening plan for at least two more weeks. Like you, I am troubled by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Idaho. I am asking you, the Idahoans who love this state as much as I do, to help us slow the spread.

What is one easy thing that you can do? Wear a mask or cloth face covering when you are in public places. This is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is not only a sign of mutual respect to your friends, neighbors, and community, but there is abundant evidence that masks or cloth face coverings help prevent the virus from spreading. It also shows your commitment to local businesses and Idaho’s economy. It’s such a simple thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that masks or cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Continue reading “DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Wear a mask in support of Idaho’s economy”