York health nonprofit beefs up presence in Lancaster

Nikole Tome MPH, CHES, Assistant Director of Education Services provides interactive health education to Samuel, Oliver and Cecelia Parrish at the Byrnes Health Education Center in York. - (Photo / Submitted)

The Byrnes Health Education Center is shifting how its staff serves Lancaster County to become better engaged in the community next to its home in York County.

The York-based Byrnes Health, which provides preventive health education courses for students and parents throughout Central Pennsylvania, now has staff members working full time out of The Candy Factory, a co-working space in Lancaster City. 

The Candy Factory gives Byrnes Health space for two to four employees to work in Lancaster regularly instead of traveling back and forth. Byrnes Health also plans to use the facility’s conference room to invite community members in for parenting programs, according to Anne Bahn, CEO of Byrnes Health.

Although Byrnes Health has long worked with school districts in Lancaster County, “the community at large doesn’t know us as well as we’d like them to,” Bahn said. 

Demand for education programs from Byrnes Health are high, especially as midstate communities struggle with increasing opioid pain pill and heroin use.

“The most requests that come in are for any kind of work with substance abuse,” Bahn said.

Second to substance abuse education, Byrnes is getting calls to provide courses on digital citizenship, so that parents and kids can understand the ramifications of what they do online. The third-most common call is for mental health education.

In 2016, Byrnes Health provided health programs to 103,000 students and adults throughout the region and beyond, either through live presentations, interactive webinars or online health education curriculum.

Approximately 40,000 of those students and adults are in Lancaster County, so the decision to put staff there was a “natural choice,” according to Bahn.

The second location won’t mirror the nonprofit’s headquarters in York, which is a much bigger operation that frequently hosts programs for parents and the community, but it will be a branch of that with services specific to Lancaster, Bahn explained.

She also said that due to the increasing cost of transportation for schools, it’s become much more likely that Byrnes Health will travel to the schools to give presentations instead of having students come to them in York. A location on the opposite side of the river will help make school visits easier for Byrnes Health employees.

Byrnes Heath anticipates it will hire additional employees in the future as a result of expanding into Lancaster, but right now it’s sticking with its team of 18.

During the last academic year, Byrnes Health educators were in 180 school buildings throughout South Central Pennsylvania.

“Most of what we do is for students, and it’s the whole way, pre-K through grade 12,” Bahn said.

The nonprofit does not receive any state or federal funding, but survives on fundraising efforts, as well as grants from people and businesses.

“If there’s a school who needs us, we work it out,” Bahn said.

Lenay Ruhl

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