Defiance County health officials want to modify a walking path on Defiance’s eastside and turn it into a “mental health wellness” trail.
Health Commissioner Jamie Gerken and Brian Heil, health promotion coordinator, made the proposal during county commissioners regular meeting Thursday.
They want to modify a portion of the walking path that travels from the county office building (Defiance County East) with certain additions — musical instruments such as a xylophone, for example — that they believe will aid those experiencing mental health distress. The trail also continues around the Defiance County Sheriff’s Office on Biede Avenue and around Maumee Valley Guidance Center near the Maumee River where Gerken and Heil would like to see the changes.
Other suggested improvements include benches to allow sitting and reflection on the path to take advantage of natural settings where “meditation and gratitude” might be promoted, and possibly adding footprints to help guide yoga exercises on the trail.
“What we’ve been trying to do is we have a health and wellness campaign that we have partnered with the four counties and the Four-county ADAMhs Board district,” Gerken said, “and the whole goal of that campaign is to promote mental heath awareness prior to having clinically diagnosed depression, anxiety … .”
She explained that the effort began out of the need to upgrade the trail’s signage.
The health department presented statistics to commissioners suggesting the need for further mental health wellness efforts.
According to a 2018 community health assessment in Defiance County, according to Heil, 47% of adults “identified that they felt limited in some way because of physical, mental or emotional problems” while 2% considered “attempting suicide in the last year” and 11% “feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row or more.”
The study indicated that 14% of Defiance County youth in grades 6-12 had “seriously considered attempting suicide” while 7% claimed that they had attempted it and 28% indicated that they “felt sad or hopeless” for two or more weeks in a row, according to Heil.
Gerken informed commissioners that the health department is working on some conceptual drawings with Jerry Overmier of Beilharz Architects for the changes.
With only two of three commissioners presented, no decisions were made about proceeding on Thursday. Commissioner David Kern, however, expressed support for the idea, noting that the community of New Bremen — near Lima — already has a park with similar attributes on a walking trail.
“Personally, I think it’s neat,” Kern told health department officials Thursday. “I like the direction you’re going.
Changes to the trail mesh with the county’s desire to address its condition. County Administrator Sherry Carnahan said it’s “been on our list to redo the trail. We’ve always had an idea in our mind to do something with the trail.”
Gerken said the idea will be brought to health department’s board of trustees during its Aug. 8 meeting. The health department might have to allocate funds for the Beilharz study if the matter continues forward.
Also Thursday, commissioners canceled their regular monthly update from Amy Francis, county senior services director.
The agency’s senior centers in Defiance and Hicksville were closed from mid-week on due to coronavirus concerns. They are expected to reopen on Tuesday.
In other business Thursday, commissioners:
• received a quarterly update from Jill Voll, director of the Defiance County Family and Children First Council.
• discussed workers compensation with Defiance County EMA Director Julie Rittenhouse as well as Kelly Lowry and Dustin Napier of Sedgewick.
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