CHI St. Gabriel’s Health honored again for improving community health

CHI St. Gabriel’s Health led one of five programs honored by the American Hospital Association, for improving community health. Picking up the award at a leadership summit in San Diego, Calif., July 29 are (from left): Dr. Heather Bell, Kathy Lange and Dr. Kurt DeVine.

For the fourth time in just over a year, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health and its community partners’ efforts to address the national opioid epidemic have received an award, this time one of the American Hospital Association’s prestigious NOVA awards. The hospital and its collaborators were presented the NOVA award at the annual AHA Summit July 29 in San Diego, Calif., one of five “bright stars in health care” recognized for improving community health by “looking beyond patients’ physical ailments, rooting out the economic and social barriers to care and collaborating with other community stakeholders.”

The national honor comes on the heels of the Minnesota Hospital Association’s Innovation in Patient Care award that the initiative received June 2, the Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence award received Dec. 12, 2016, and the Minnesota Rural Health Conference Rural Health Team of the Year award that was presented on June 21, 2016.

Originally funded through a $368,112 grant from the Minnesota Departments of Health and Human Services State Innovation Model (SIM) program, the care coordination initiative focused on highly collaborative, community-wide approach to addressing opioid misuse. The grant funding was crucial to the effort, since Morrison County is among the poorest counties in the state and the donor base to fund such efforts is highly limited.

“The multidisciplinary approach and the fact that we got involved in developing a solution to opioid overuse and the opioid epidemic on the ‘front end’ of the problem, I believe, are among the reasons for our success and the related recognition,” said Kathy Lange, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health Foundation director and SIM grant administrator.  “But there have been multiple success factors.

“Having two provider champions who were willing to support and encourage other providers make changes in narcotic prescribing practices was vital as well.,” Lange said. “Dr. (Kurt) DeVine and Dr. (Heather) Bell embraced their roles and responsibilities for carrying the message forward.  Changing culture is never easy. Having the provider leadership was critical.”

The highly collaborative team includes law enforcement, South Country Health Alliance, county staff from public health, social services, and the courts, as well as other partners with similar missions.

“The multidisciplinary nature of our team was equally important,” Lange said. “Not only do we have a variety of community partners, we also have different perspectives represented on the team. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, law enforcement personnel, educators, senior care and other health care leaders are among those adding their voices to solving this problem. Certainly, the number of overdoses and deaths heightened awareness of the problem which helped as well.”

Lange credits the option to treat patients with Suboxone as a final contributing success factor.

“When the physicians (Dr. DeVine and Dr. Bell) became certified to provide medically assisted treatment (MAT), it was an important development,” Lange said. “Suboxone became the drug that they utilized because it is less expensive and the providers wanted to minimize any economic impact on patients receiving MAT.”

Moving forward and thanks to the team’s continued leadership, Lange expects great things to continue.  Members of the team were recently invited by Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Rick Nolan to attend a Sept. 27, Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., to present the details of the initiative.

“The briefing affords us an opportunity to assist other rural communities in replicating our initiative, further demonstrating the success and achievable outcomes of our model,” Lange said. “We’ve captured a lot of awards in the past 13 months so I don’t know how much more recognition we can expect. But, when we measure our success by the number of patients we’ve helped, by the number of pills we’ve taken off the street and by the increased number of providers and communities utilizing our model to reduce opioid misuse, there are still plenty of opportunities for success.

“We want to completely eliminate overdoses and deaths from opioid misuse. We think that is an achievable and worthy goal, not only here in Morrison County, but throughout the country,” Lange said. “This is a national problem. It’s not unique to our community. What is unique is that we were the first rural community to propose a comprehensive, planned approach to dealing with the issue.”

To learn more about the initiative, contact Lange in the CHI St. Gabriel’s Health Foundation office at (320) 631-5624 or email her at [email protected]