The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Residents show tremendous support for a Community Wellness Center in Chinook


December 5, 2018

Marilyn Besich, Program Director, Montana Cooperative Development Center explained to those in attendance how the community could achieve the goal of a Wellness Center in Chinook.

An ad-hoc group of citizens interested in developing a Community Wellness Center in Chinook/Blaine County began meeting back in September.

The group, aware of each others common interests, developed an idea with the stated goal of:

• Fostering healthy lifestyles and positive self image

• Physical health broadening access to workout facilities and ability to provide classes

• Interest in promoting community engagement to reduce isolation and support mental health across all age groups

They soon formulated the concept of a wellness center and were interested in feedback from the community.

A public meeting was held on Wednesday, November 29 at the Blaine County Library meeting room in Chinook with about 30 community members in attendance.

The discussion began at 6:30 and went later than organizers originally planned, concluding around 8:15. "We wanted to get done a little sooner but the conversation seemed to have everyone engaged. Even after we decided to adjourn the meeting conversations continued among individuals that stuck around after," said Jayne Morrow, one of the organizers of the meeting.

During the groups presentation to the community several slides were presented to further the idea of what a 'Wellness Center' would consist of.

Barb Skoyen spoke to the group and one of the slides she talked about spoke most clearly of the overall thought of the group. It's message, "We envision a Community Wellness Center that offers:

Place: A place for all citizens to engage in health focused goals (nature appreciation, physical and mental health, and arts)

Community: The community can practice healthy living with members of varied interests, backgrounds, ages, and perspectives

Connection: We will enhance physical and mental health by connecting with and sharing our talents, skills, and wisdom among members community

Culture: Celebrate the unique attributes and culture of our community across generations and geographical location

Several members presented slides including Tawna Richman, Jana McPherson-Hauer, Betty Billmayerm and Jayne Morrow.

Marilyn Besich of The Montana Cooperative Development Center also provided a presentation on the opportunities of the cooperative business models and discussed ways to make the thought a reality.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive. With extensive discussion and sharing of ideas for what the community would use the wellness center for and what we are most interested in building together," said Morrow.

Some other points emphasized during the discussion included ways that a community center can serve as a focal point to foster community engagement. Such as offering a meeting place, promoting camaraderie in pursuing health focused goals, create a rich sense of community and to provide a sense of identity based on healthy interactions – outdoor activities, indoor exercise, community arts, and education.

Jana McPherson-Hauer from the Blaine County Health Department presented slides showing risk factors of living rural: Unintentional death from car crashes is 50% higher in rural communities - Drug and alcohol use prevalence and a lack of seat belt use makes traffic injuries more lethal in rural communities.

Isolation and poverty are accentuated in remote rural areas and lead to increased risk of substance abuse, suicide and chronic health conditions.

Working hard is different than working out, and rural residents are less likely than others to be physically active in their free time.

Exercise facilities and public amenities that promote wellness and other physical activity are often lacking.

"Rural areas experience higher rates of obesity and overweight than the nation as a whole, yet many rural communities do not have the resources to address this critical health concern," according to the Rural Health Information Hub.

According to one of her slides referencing a community Health Assessment done by the Blaine County Health Department in 2017:

• Only 4% of individuals in Blaine County report that they have access to exercise opportunities - compared to 67% of the state-wide reported similar access.

• Most frequently reported preferred classes/programs in Blaine County Health Assessment were in areas of fitness, weight loss, and health and wellness.

• A wellness center can focus community-wide efforts on improving physical and emotional wellness.

Prior to the meeting organizers had come up with a number of ideas where such a center could be located. Following the meeting, several in attendence had offered up more suggestions. Any and all ideas are welcome moving forward and the group seeks input from everyone in the community and looks forward to taking the next step.

Below is a questionnaire the group had put together to gage interest. One can go to and complete the survey online, fill out the form below and drop off at Blaine County Health or pick one up there and return. If you wish to get involved you can email Jayne Morrow at


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