In January 2017, the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development, announced that public housing will be required to go smoke-free within 18 months. With support from the North Country Healthy Heart Network and other partners, Plattsburgh Housing Authority (PHA) Executive Director, Mark Hamilton, took a pro-active approach to the policy change, which impact’s PHA’s 601 apartments.
Mark convened partners from his staff, Champlain Valley Family Center’s Advancing Tobacco Free Communities (ATFC) initiative, Northern Adirondack Medical Home Initiative’s Tobacco Treatment Specialist Elise Rock, and the Heart Network’s Health Systems for a Tobacco Free NY initiative to explore ways to support residents impacted by the policy.
Since January, the team has been working to to estimate demand for tobacco cessation support, plan the policy roll out, communicate resources, and meet treatment needs generated by the new policy. With input from the team, the Heart Network’s Stefanie Miller surveyed PHA staff and residents to measure tobacco use, as well as awareness of available cessation resources (such as primary care providers and the NYS Smoker’s Quitline). Survey results were encouraging. We learned that over 80% of PHA staff support the policy and almost 90% recognize the dangers of second-hand smoke.
After introducing the policy to PHA staff and making a press announcement, Mark hosted several community meetings to hear resident feedback. Elise Rock, Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS), attended each of the meetings, and offered her ongoing support for staff and residents ready to quit. Elise has already been contacted by several residents and is planning a mobile clinic to provide on-site cessation support. Also in attendance was Dana Isabella, of Champlain Valley Family Center’s Advancing Tobacco Free Communities initiative, to provide expertise and background on the HUD policy and educational materials.
We look forward to the success of PHA’s efforts as the team continues to collaborate to anticipate and meet the education and cessation needs generated by the new smoke-free policy. In partnership with ATFC and local CTTS’s, we are reaching out housing authorities across the North Country to share the effective process and resources developed through the PHA experience. In order to meet increased demand for tobacco cessation counseling, we are working to offer training for tobacco support group facilitators and other capacity building, such as peer-to-peer support through the North County CTTS Network.