Valley Health & Wellness Expo

Full Scope of Specialties on Display at Health Expo

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When it comes to discussions of health care in the Mahoning Valley, it’s the major players that draw much of the attention. Organizations such as Mercy Health, Steward Health Care System, Southwoods Health and One Health Ohio all provide a vast array of services, but the spectrum of care in the region stretches far beyond their walls.

“We work together with other doctors, with your physician. People with arthritis have to be seen at the eye doctor every six months. In this kind of setting, we get to see people alongside other physicians,” said Michelle DeMarco, manager of Bloomberg Eye Care. “Even if you see good enough, your muscles are still overworking themselves. They need to be relaxed; that’s how you get the best vision.”

Among the health issues that affect vision are high blood pressure, diabetes and tumors, she added.

“Anything can affect your vision, even medication as simple as aspirin. That’s why it’s so important to get checked every year,” DeMarco said. “With computers, the blue light is making macular degeneration pop up sooner. Early screening is prevention and that’s what can make sure you’re not going to go through that later in life.”

Bloomberg Eye Care, which has offices in Austintown, Boardman and Warren, was among the more than 55 vendors at the Valley Health & Wellness Expo Saturday. The range of specialties on display at the two-day expo, hosted by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, ranged from dental care to physical fitness to mental health to geriatric care to youth services. 

Bloomberg Eye CareRoseanne Deemer and Michelle DeMarco of Bloomberg Eye Care.

“Things are constantly changing. So many things are different from when I was a kid,” said Desirae Thompson, chief operating officer of Youth Intensive Services. “There are so many challenges they’re facing that we didn’t when we were younger, just from social media and the internet. They’re the next generation that’ll be taking care of us, so it’s important to take care of their issues as soon as we can. The earlier the intervention, the better.”

The nonprofit provides therapy, mental health and substance abuse counseling, medication management and vocational rehab to children and families. To further broaden its impact, Youth Intensive Services has started working with area school districts to provide care in schools, Thompson added.

“With the increase in mental health issues, particularly among our kids, its important to have those services in schools. Sometimes a lot of parents don’t have the ability to make appointments after school or on weekends, so we provide those services during the day right there in a school setting,” she said.

For medication management, Youth Intensive Services offers telemedicine, allowing students to talk about their prescriptions from school, as well as a DNA test that can better pair them with appropriate medication.

Youth Intensive ServicesYouth Intensive Services brings its services into area schools, said chief operating officer Desirae Thompson.

As the opioid crisis continues to impact the Mahoning Valley, the need for comprehensive counseling is crucial, said Carolyn Givens, executive director of Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers. To effectively treat addiction, she explained, it must be treated as the disease it is.

“Everybody deserves the best quality health care. Often, for people with addiction, their treatment is longer. It’s important to educate that this is an illness, not a choice. It’s chronic and progressive. It can improve and people can get better if they have a program that allows them to understand the steps they need to improve their quality of life,” she said. “It impacts physical health. People with addiction are more prone to things like hepatitis C or the breakdown of their immune system. You want to treat people with addiction the same way you would treat someone with a disease like pancreatitis.”

With so many facets of health care in one place, the leaders of the four larger systems – Mercy Health, Steward, Southwoods and One Health Ohio, the sponsors of the expo – said the key to improving medical outcomes in the Mahoning Valley is working across lines, whether it’s between specialties or organizations.

“The approach Steward takes is really one of keeping people out of the hospital with a focus on prevention and a focus on wellness,” said Ron Bierman, president of Trumbull Regional Medical Center, one of three Steward hospitals in the region. “One of the things that’s been most apparent in my two years in the Mahoning Valley is that you’re blessed to have incredibly good physicians and very good, well-established, efficient health-care organizations.”

In May, Southwoods Health will open its newest center, dedicated to pain and spine care. What led to its development, said CEO Ed Muransky, was what’s driven the rest of Southwoods’ expansions over the years: keeping care in the Mahoning Valley. 

James Dignan, John Luellen, Ron Bierman, Ed Muransky, Ron DwinnellsYoungstown/Warren Regional Chamber CEO James Dignan joined the leaders from the four sponsors of the expo: Dr. John Luellen of Mercy Health-Youngstown, Trumbull Regional Medical Center President Ron Bierman, Southwoods Health CEO Ed Muransky and One Health Ohio CEO Dr. Ron Dwinnells.

“It was a fragmented business. If you were getting rehab for your back, you’d to one place. For an epidural, another. Medication management, another. … Under 50,000 [square] feet, we’re putting all those under one roof,” he said. “The doctors are all under one roof, so they’re communicating about you. If you have pain in your spine or leg, instead of being referred to another doctor, you might just be sent down the hallway for a spine person or physiatrist to look at you.”

The field is either at capacity in this area, he said, or the services are unavailable here, forcing those in need of them to go to larger cities

If you’ve ever had back pain, you don’t want to be told you’ll be seen in two months. You want to be seen yesterday,” he said.

The center will add about 150 jobs to Southwoods, he added, noting that figure pales in comparison to what the medical industry could have in store for the Valley over the course of the next decade.

“If we play it right and play it together, there are thousands of jobs out there – thousands of nursing slots, thousands of doctors to be educated – and to me it’s important to focus on it,” he said. “And not just in the facilities, but in the people seeking health care so they understand what world-class places they have here.”

Delivering the level of care similar to that of what’s found in major cities such as Cleveland or Pittsburgh, added the Regional Chamber’s Dignan, would play a large role in the attraction of new businesses to area, or even convince expanding companies to stay.

“Our role isn’t just to make this the best place to do business, it’s to make this the best place to live, work and play,” he said. “When a company’s looking to relocate or expand, they’re looking at the quality of our schools from pre-K to graduate school, greenspace, recreation, — you name it. The availability of health care, access to providers and quality are all part of what they look at.”

Pictured: The second Valley Health & Wellness Expo brought in more than 55 vendors from across the spectrum of health care.

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