The state Secretary of Health, John Wiesman, paid a visit to Othello and the hospital Wednesday, March 19, during one of many stops the state Department of Health has made on its tours to learn more about community-level health care. Wiesman and his colleagues led a Q & A session following lunch at Othello Community Hospital where healthcare providers, government employees and community stakeholders learned what Wiesman and others are doing in towns like this one. Wiesman first thanked Othello and its community for lending him Dennis Worsham, who recently became one of DOH's newest deputy secretaries. He then went on to explain a bit about his department and its 1,600 employees who grant licenses to medical providers, work to increase safety, study infectious diseases and make sure the food prepared at restaurants is safe, among many other topics. Then, he opened the floor to the guests and Othello Community Hospital administrator Connie Agenbroad asked what Wiesman's agency has done to address mental health. She said some recent mental health patients at OCH have had to stay in the emergency room for up to three days waiting for another medical facility more capable of treating them to take over care. Wiesman said this is an area he's heard many concerns about during his tour, especially from smaller communities like ours. "In Grays Harbor, we heard about hospitals there - same thing - who have been boarding patients with mental health issues for two or more weeks, which is truly, totally unacceptable," Wiesman said. "It is not the care they need, so, there's a lot to be done." Wiesman said recent legislation has focused on integrating mental health care with traditional services and preventing the onset of mental disorders by looking into how adverse childhood experiences can lead to them. "Folks with mental illness die, on average, 25 years younger than the average for the population," Wiesman said. "This is truly about the fact that we have separate silo systems where ... we're not integrating those and not getting those funding streams together. A lot of those issues are about chronic disease issues that are going along with the mental health issues." Mayor Shawn Logan then broached the topic of homelessness and wanted to know more about the efforts to find living arrangements for them. Wiesman said the focus has shifted from finding temporary housing to finding permanent residences. He said this gives them a chance to set up "life supports," like a steady source of food and a job with income within a stable home, rather than having to worry how long they'll get to stay in their current residence. Administrator of Integrated Health Care Services of Adams County Vicki Guse added to the conversation and said they've been following the state's new focuses in the area, but she pointed out how housing is difficult to find in the area even for well-off people.