Together We Can Improve Health

As has become an annual activity for our organization, before we ring in the new year, we take a look back at events, projects and moments from 2014 that have impacted the health care scene in our communities and our nation.

On day eight of our Year In Review series, Health Forward Program Officer Graciela Couchonnal recaps Health Forward’s eight years of funding the Regional Health Care Initiative.

In 2005, as both Health Forward and the REACH Healthcare Foundation were in the beginning days of grantmaking, safety net stakeholders reached out to our collective board and staff members to talk about the need to coordinate and maximize the value of safety net health care for the uninsured and underserved throughout the metro area.

The Health Management Associates completed a Safety Net Metro Access Gap Analysis, which identified a need for greater coordination and collaboration among safety net providers in the metropolitan Kansas City region to leverage resources into the safety net health care system and expand health care access.

And with that, the Regional Health Care Initiative (RHCI) was born. Managed by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), a group of funders — including Health Forward and REACH — awarded the collaborative more than $1.1 million over three years to convene safety net stakeholders.

RHCI was Health Forward’s first major initiative and has received $1.4 million in Health Forward grants over the past eight years. RHCI has played a significant role in facilitating system change in the provision of quality, accessible health care for the uninsured and underserved.

Over the past eight years, RHCI and its stakeholders have created and provided support to:

  • The Safety Net Collaborative — a coalition of safety net health care clinics from the bi-state area that worked to improve access to care by strengthening, coordinating and expanding the capacity of clinics to serve consumers. This group was instrumental in the development of the Safety Net Capacity Expansion Initiative, which increases access to primary care during critical non-traditional hours including evening and weekend hours; and the Care Coordination Initiative, which seeks to improve access and reduce unnecessary emergency room visits through care coordination.
  • The Metropolitan Mental Health Stakeholders — a coalition of mental health centers and other community-based mental health providers that addressed the need for coordinated and integrated behavioral health services; educated the region on the impact of trauma and how to create a trauma-informed community; and developed recommendations to improve access to behavioral health care for children in the region.
  • The Community Health Worker Initiative — a group of educators and health workforce development stakeholders who are collaborating in the development of a uniform CHW curriculum and training as well as educating employers on how CHW can help strengthen the regions workforce.
  • The Oral Health Access Committee – a group of oral health providers that successfully coordinated and organized expanded function training for Missouri-area dental assistants and is leading a dental emergency diversion pilot program between area hospital emergency departments and dental safety net clinics
  • Convened stakeholders interested in health information technology to form the Kansas City Bi-State Health Information Exchange (KC-BHIE) for the purpose of developing a regional health information exchange.

In addition to the tangible outcomes achieved by these projects, we should not lose sight of the hard-to-measure benefits derived from the work of so many of Health Forward’s partners in the community. RHCI has contributed to a culture of trust and commitment, bringing safety net stakeholders to the table to benefit consumers, organizations and the community as a whole. Organizations have joined together and set aside individual agendas to agree on a common purpose and vision needed to tackle long-standing, complex problems. The collaborations that have developed to date have created a foundation of trust that will be critical to address the many challenges and opportunities we still face.

Over the past year, Health Forward and REACH commissioned an evaluation of RHCI to assess progress and lessons learned. After thoroughly reviewing and discussing the recommendations and next steps from this evaluation, Health Forward decided that, after eight years, the time was right for Health Forward to step aside from its role as a major funder of the RHCI. MARC has been, and will continue to be, a valued partner as we support other health-related projects and look to the future for new collaborations.

While our funding for RHCI ends, our commitment to the work of the stakeholders and projects born from RHCI will continue. It is our expectation and hope that stakeholders and projects that have been a part of RHCI will continue to turn to Health Forward for support as future opportunities evolve. We are looking forward to partnering with and watching these projects continue to grow.

At Health Forward, our safety net funding priorities remain unchanged: to promote the development of a health care delivery system that provides easy access to quality health care resulting in better health, better care and lower cost.

There is a saying “if your goal is to go fast, go alone….but if your goal is to go far, go together.” Our goal is to go far. We invite all our stakeholders and partners to join us because only together can we improve the health of those most vulnerable.

Happy holidays to everyone, and thank you for all that you do!

Health Forward

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006