An Owensboro Health official stressed the importance of addressing "social determinants of health," such as food insecurity, homelessness and lack of transportation on Wednesday and asked nonprofits to join an online database that links patients with services.

Dr. Jim Tidwell, OH vice president of population health, presented information to the Homeless Council of the Ohio Valley at its monthly meeting. Members of the council include representatives from residential recovery programs, homeless shelters, food pantries and other service organizations.

"There are a lot of influences that factor into a person's health," Tidwell told the group.

Health experts have found environmental conditions play a far bigger role in overall well-being than clinics and hospitals, he said.

As vice president of population health, Tidwell focuses on improving the region's health. Providing everyone with nutritious food, adequate green space for exercise and other resources that provide a wholesome quality of life would reduce the risk for poor health outcomes.

OH wants to use an online database -- AuntBertha.com -- that searches ZIP codes for free or reduced services, such as medical, food, job training, housing and more.

Aunt Bertha was founded in 2010 by Erine Gray, of Austin, Texas, who had trouble connecting his mom with services after she contracted a rare brain disease. Today, millions of people and businesses across the nation use the free online service, which includes a smart phone app.

However, when Tidwell tried to pull up Owensboro's Help Office on Aunt Bertha, the nonprofit didn't automatically appear. Through a "Suggest Program" link, he made a request for the Help Office to be added to the region's list.

That's where OH needs the nonprofit community's help. Tidwell is asking regional nonprofits to go to auntbertha.com, sign in and take the necessary steps to make sure their services appear when any Daviess County ZIP code is typed in. Then, nonprofits should update services on Aunt Bertha any time there is a change.

"This database is only as good as the data that is in it," Tidwell said.

If regional nonprofits honor Tidwell's request, the health system will be able to link people in need to services.

After leaving the HCOV meeting, Tidwell was scheduled to make a presentation to OH volunteers, who will be trained to use Aunt Bertha in OH facilities.

Jenni Warren, Daviess County Fiscal Court liaison to the council, questioned the need to use Aunt Bertha when United Way recently rolled out its 211 emergency hotline earlier this year. Warren fears nonprofit leaders -- who already are stretched thin for resources -- may not have time to update their Aunt Bertha listings.

"Any and every tool we have available is something that could be used," Tidwell said.

Anyone who has questions about Aunt Bertha may contact Tidwell by email at james.tidwell@owensborohealth.org.

In other business, the HCOV elected new officers. They are Dan Eaton, chairman; Christie Bartley, vice chairwoman; Tiffany Buckner, treasurer; Audrey Sanders, resources fair coordinator; and Robert Bussing, secretary.

Susan Montalvo-Gesser, an attorney and director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Owensboro, informed members of the HCOV about the Kentucky Criminal Justice Forum, which will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 25 at the H.L. Neblett Community Center, 201 W. Fifth St. The public is invited.

Panelists will include state Rep. Jim Glenn, state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a formerly incarcerated resident and others.

Louisville hosted the state's first forum. Owensboro will be the second city.

And District Court Judge Lisa Jones, who will preside over Daviess County's new mental health court, and mental health coordinator Rachel Pate presented information.

Jones described the county's new mental health court as a "front-end program." As soon as law enforcement, Daviess County Detention Center or other agencies identify someone who suffers from mental illness, they contact Pate, who starts looking at alternatives to incarceration.

Pate said she handled 50 referrals during her first six weeks on the job.

Ashley Vanover, who handles marketing for the Local Antidote, spoke briefly about the new pantry that provides food and hygiene items to people in need. The nonprofit opened Sept. 13 at 1621 W. Ninth St.

Free items are available at Local Antidote from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays. The center is also open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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