Grants help Kenai library advance healthy project

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2006

Through a series of monthly workshops, additions to its Web site and the purchase of resources and equipment, the Kenai Community Library hopes to allow community members to be more proactive in protecting their own health.

The library is using three grants collected during the past year and working with Kenai Peninsula nonprofit organizations to address health information shortages in consumer health, mental health and Alzheimer’s and dementia needs.

The grants, amounting to $15,000, are being used used for the purchase of updated health resources. Money from a $5,000 Alaska State Library grant was earmarked toward buying updated consumer health information. The library bought 122 items relating to consumer health topics, including a DVD player, DVDs, books, magazines, books on tape and updated reference materials.

Grants from the American Psychiatric Foundation and the Mental Health Trust, each for $5,000, will be used in a similar fashion to add 160 materials related to mental health. The APF grant is exclusively for mental health materials and the MHT grant is for Alzheimer’s and dementia-related materials. The physical materials join the electronic ones that were built into the “Internet Resources” link on during the past year.

Scheduled also are one year of monthly presentations on mental health issues led by area health experts. Four presentations have passed already, and the next, on step-family issues, will take place at 6:30 p.m. today at the library.

At the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday, library Webmaster Julie Niederhauser explained that the major community benefit in these resources comes from easily accessible and reliable information, noting that much of the information purchased with the grant money was available to library patrons before only through the interlibrary loan process.

“Before people had to wait a week or 10 days for information, and if you have a health problem, that’s too long,” Niederhauser said.

The Alzheimer’s and dementia resources will be cataloged by library staff and housed at the Kenai Senior Citizen’s Center. The information is especially important for this area, Niederhauser said, because of the peninsula’s large population of senior citizens.

“The population of the Kenai region has increased considerably over the past decade, showing approximately a 50 percent increase overall,” she said. “This is due largely to more than a 100 percent increase of the population aged 45 and older.”

The resources to be housed at the senior center should be available there in less than a month, according to Rachael Craig, the center’s director.

Niederhauser teaches Internet classes at the center, and Craig suggested she partner with the center to get the Mental Health Trust grant.

“It’s getting to be where you need to partner with someone to get a grant,” Craig said. “(Niederhauser) just kind of took the ball and ran with it.”

Craig said the materials will benefit caregivers and volunteers working with patients or family members suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“It will be just like (the materials) were at the library, but they will be able to check them out here,” she said.

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