Written by Tim Rosenberger   
Thursday, 26 December 2013 15:07

Hult Center_4_-_Staff

Hul Center Staff. Photo courtesy of the Hult Center.

The Hult Center for Healthy Living appears not to be content with its ever growing list of programs and services designed to educate and assist people regarding health concerns, having recently started a new mental health program after a recent merger with Mental Health America of Illinois Valley on Sept. 1.

The 22-year-old organization has 74 programs, most of which are free, for a wide variety of age groups from young children to seniors 55 and above. Among the center’s many services are programs for cancer patients, caregivers, healthy living habits, senior citizens, youth education and mental health.

The center had been working on the mental health program for most of 2013 before merging with MHAIV, which has a 60 year history full of success, Matt George, HCHL executive director, says.

“What they [MHAIV] saw was that to get things done [and to] be able to grow programs, collaborations the answer, and so, that’s what we did at the Cancer Center for Healthy Living and that’s what we did with [the] Mental Health Association [now known as MHAIV],” George said.

Mental health is made up by many different factors, some not as obvious as others – like bullying and alcohol abuse, George says.

Such issues can start from an extremely young age. So, HCHL collaborates with The Line of Hope, a local hotline for adolescents and adults experiencing suicidal thoughts or other mental health problems.

As an additional part of the mental health program, HCHL goes into classes to talk to kids and helps adults when they can. The center will also find licensed professionals to help people, who cannot be aided by the center alone.

District 150 has a contract with HCHL that requires every student to visit the center each year. Daily school buses come in full of kids who learn about puberty, drugs, healthy eating and exercise habits, and the importance of brushing their teeth.

“You look at high blood pressure and you look at diabetes and you look at oral health issues and you look at even obesity in children and it’s a fast paced world,” George said. “Sometimes everybody forgets that you have to watch what you eat, [and] you have to take care of your body.”

Sometimes the simplest matters of healthcare can cause the biggest problems. Not taking care of your teeth can result in various types of illnesses and is one of the primary reasons for area kids missing school, George says.

Health problems only compound as people get older, says George. This is one of the reasons why obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol rates go up every year.

George thinks the key to healthy living is finding the time to exercise and make healthy meals. Too often, people take the easy route and just go by a drive-thru. People need to get into habits of healthy living to truly be healthy.

A number of visual and interactive tools are employed to help teach those coming to HCHL. At the center you can find tools like a giant set of teeth that comes out of the wall that teaches the kids the importance of brushing and flossing. There is also a display of the human body that shows off all the organs and veins.

The center is on pace this year to see over 50,000 children. Last year, 21,000 kids were seen through outreach programs, where they use similar tools – such as pig lungs which are brought in to schools to demonstrate the dangers of smoking. These tools are crucial for teaching kids who learn a lot through visuals and new technologies, says George.

“It’s really what schools are not doing [and] not focusing on,” George said. “It changes it up. That’s why the teachers in all the school districts like coming here, because it’s not your typical textbook learning.”

“When a kid comes here, they actually look at it as a fun field trip, but they’re actually learning,” George added. “When they’re at school they don’t look at it that way.”

Other HCHL programs and events include a health fair for seniors, Seniors on the Go for active seniors, Kids Konnected for cancer support and education, and numerous other special events like the Lobster Boil and the Annual Spirit of Living Dinner.

Kelsey Wright, HCHL’s marketing and development coordinator, says the center is in continuous talks with the health department and many local groups to see what programs are absent in the area.

Along with its wonderful donor support group that believes in what the center does, staying in contact like with different groups is one of the main reasons for the center’s continued success.

“So, we’re never stale,” Wright said. “We’re constantly changing or upgrading to meet the demands of the community.”

One such area where expansion is being planned is The Hope Project, which uses dramatic monologues of real life stories of mental illness to teach people how to handle mental illness in their lives or in the lives of people they know.

“We’re constantly researching, seeing what’s out there, talking to the competitors and just trying to keep moving forward,” Wright said. “We’re doing something right.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 15:35
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