Storytelling The Mission: A Necessity for Nonprofits

R NapolitanoOur guest blog post today is by Rich Napolitano, Senior Vice President, External Relations/Chief Marketing & Development Officer, at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.  This post was originally published on LinkedIn. 

I recently attended a conference of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) in Washington, DC.  During the annual conference in our nation’s capital, a lot of time was spent on advocacy — advocating on behalf of Community Health Centers and supporting the work they do throughout the country.  The educational sessions on advocacy work were informative and extremely helpful in providing a blueprint for future success at my health center.

What was most apparent though was the strengthening of my belief that storytelling your organization’s mission is vital to ensuring future patient, donor, and community engagement, and ultimately continued success in providing the comprehensive, quality health care for so many patients in our region.  Of course, it’s always  important to know your nonprofit organization’s mission statement, and most can recite theirs verbatim, but how many can tell a story that will depict what the mission is and what it means to the community?

At Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, we need to paint a picture that clearly describes what our Community Health Center does – each and every day. Why? Because like many nonprofits our health center is more than just “seeing a doctor.”  So being able to recite that mission is not enough and quite frankly, I believe that every employee should be able to do this – not just the Marketing and Development folks.

An example of storytelling our mission is our weekly Access Points social media feature which is focused on increasing patient access and complementing the National Association of Community Health Centers’ #AccessistheAnswer national advocacy campaign.   Access Points tell a quick story, illustrating access to care in a way that most might not realize is happening at our health center.  We have been highlighting these Access Points for about two months now and the feedback has been tremendous.

Here is a recent Access Point posting on removing barriers to care through GLFHC’s school-based health centers. 

So now we are on our own mission of gathering stories to tell – stories to share with others via social media and our website, public gatherings or even just in conversations with others.  Being able to tell the story makes it real and I am now convinced will be one of our most useful arrows in our quiver when it comes to strengthening our brand and engaging more people – patients, community leaders, and donors alike.

A Baltimore Health Center Gets The Spotlight

Congratulations are in order for Baltimore Medical System (BMS). The largest federally qualified health center in Maryland was named a high performing practice by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). As a high performing practice BMS will now also join CMS’ Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPI) national expert panel. As a national expert BMS will contribute to healthcare improvement and cost reduction efforts across the country by sharing what they know with other practitioners.

“We are honored to be a part of the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative as it directly supports our mission to improve the health and wellness of medically underserved communities,” said Dr. Jenene Washington, BMS Chief Medical Officer in a BMS press release. “I am looking forward to sitting on the national expert panel and using our own proven successes with quality and team-based care to help other practices improve care and reduce hospital readmissions, unnecessary testing and extraneous procedures.”

BMS was selected as a high performing practice based on a recommendation from a practice transformation network in CMS’ TCPI. The recommendation was followed by a series of interviews, and performance and a data review of clinical and operational measures. The initiative aims to help more than 140,000 health care providers improve quality of care, increase patient access to information and reduce costs over the next four years by supplying them with the right tools and support.

“As a high performing practice, we also have the unique opportunity to learn and adopt best practices from other high performing centers. We are eager to begin connecting and sharing with other leaders in the healthcare industry so that we can further improve the quality of care we deliver throughout Greater Baltimore,” said Dr. Washington.

BMS has been serving underserved communities in Baltimore since 1984 when the Baltimore City Health Department approached the non-profit group about taking over four existing health department clinics. Shortly after, BMS became the first ambulatory care organization in Maryland to be accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. BMS was also the first FQHC to be Joint Commission-accredited in the Central Eastern seaboard states.

Today, BMS is the largest Community Health Center in Maryland with five health centers serving approximately 46,000 patients, and a school-based program that serves over 1,000 Baltimore City school children annually.

When Patients Need Extra Help

Muskingum Valley Health Centers

Muskingum Valley Health Centers

MVHC event to raise funds for the Patient Care Charitable Fund

MVHC event to raise funds for the Patient Care Charitable Fund

Although access to quality healthcare for everyone is the mission of Muskingum Valley Health Centers (MVHC), sometimes patients need a little extra help to get the care they need. That’s why the southeastern Ohio health center set up a Patient Care Charitable Fund in 2014 with a goal to help patients beyond the normal scope of services typically available and go the extra mile. For many patients, it has been a lifeline. The patient fund has helped make possible cervical and colorectal screenings, dental treatment and emergency related expenditures.  It has also saved lives, such as in the case of a recent uninsured patient, 62 years old and suffering from symptoms that indicated colorectal cancer.  The patient resisted having a colonoscopy procedure, but her MVHC primary care provider convinced her to get a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), paid for with the patient fund. The timing could not have been more critical. The patient’s cancer was confirmed and she immediately underwent treatment, with a positive outcome expected.

Another patient, a male diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, sought help at MVHC for an abscessed tooth. He had no dental insurance and was in tremendous oral pain. Fearing that the patient would not be able to survive a tooth extraction, the dentist opted to insert a crown which was again paid for with dollars from the patient fund.

MVHC has also launched an innovative Patient Wellness Program, thanks to the patient fund. The Wellness Program allows at-risk diabetic patients to participate in an exercise and nutritional program at a local recreation center.  Patients participating in the program have shown a measurable reduction in both weight and inches, and have learned valuable strategies for managing their medical condition.

“We’re extremely proud of the results  achieved in the short time this fund has existed,” said Dan Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer of MVHC.  “It has given us another avenue to provide excellent treatment and better serve the 30,000 patients who rely on us for care.”

The patient fund has received over $125,000 through a combination of donations and an annual fundraiser event dedicated to support it. This fundraiser is a dinner event held at The Wilds, the largest wildlife conservation center in North America. Local businesses and individuals sponsor the event, where attendees are treated to cocktails, dinner, a safari ride and animal encounters. This year, MVHC looks forward to including a presentation by Jungle Jack Hanna, recognized as America’s favorite Zookeeper and the creator of three nationally televised programs; Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.

If you’d like to learn more about the Patient Care Charitable Fund, visit http://mvhccares.org/mvhc-pccf/.

Fighting Opioid Addiction One Community at a Time

OPIODAs trusted providers on the frontlines, Community Health Centers are uniquely positioned to respond to complex and challenging public health problems. Right now one of those problems is the national epidemic of opioid abuse. Every day in the U.S. over 40 people die from overdosing on prescription painkillers, and many more are becoming addicted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   The widespread addiction to painkillers is also spurring the sales of a much cheaper alternative on the street — heroin.

Family Care Health Center in St. Louis, MO, is among the hundreds of health centers diligently working to counter the opioid epidemic with innovative collaborations and approaches. The health center has been working with Logan University since November to provide chiropractic care to patients in an effort to reduce dependency on painkillers, along with Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers.  (see article, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“This is one avenue of helping with pain problems,” explained Mattie White, MD, a family medicine doctor at Family Health Care Center. “Our goal is to keep acute problems from becoming chronic problems.”

According to Dr. White, up until the program launched, there were few treatment options beyond exercise or over-the-counter pain medicines for patients, who are largely low-income and uninsured. Many patients struggle with back problems or injuries and were highly medicated. Now patients who take part in the program, which is housed in the Logan Chiropractic Community Outreach Clinic, receive an initial evaluation with assessment tools that include measuring pain levels and depression. Patients get up to 6 to 12 follow up visits and a treatment plan that may include alternate therapy options. ”

The challenge is to reduce the addiction to painkillers while managing a patient’s pain level. While it is still too early to measure success, Dr. White  says the results are encouraging and the staff Family Care, which has an impressive integrative focus on behavioral health, is learning a lot about the link between opioid addiction and depression.

“There recently was a great study published at St. Louis University looking at chronic opioid use as an independent risk factor for depression,” she said. “Once on chronic pain medications what happens is that we’re treating the tolerance. People develop a level of tolerance with the pain medication; the patient hurts worse when the pain medication wears off so it doesn’t do the job anymore, and from then on we’re feeding that tolerance. After a while,  one gets into a trap of pain and there is no way out.”

Family Care has received a high volume of referrals and appointments for the program, enough to begin the discussion about widening the availability of services. “I think this is making a big difference,” said Dr. White. “We are already talking about starting a pain focus group so that we can look at avenues to improve function among our  patients with chronic pain.”

According to the CDC, the amount of painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled.  Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $94 million in funding to 271 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in health centers, with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations [see press release].

 

 

 

Prescribing Nature

zarrAt Community Health Centers, innovative approaches to care often start beyond the walls of the exam room. At Unity Health Care, Inc., in Washington, D.C., for instance, one pediatrician is on a mission to prescribe nature. Pediatrician Robert Zarr, MD, MPH, FAAP, has always understood that illness prevention and whole body health begins with empowering patients to adopt healthy habits, such as good nutrition and spending time outside. Yet, prescribing nature for low-income children and adults at risk for obesity and diabetes, among many other chronic diseases, is not an easy task. The challenges included finding safe, clean, and accessible parks that can be easily identified in and around the urban Nation’s Capital. Since 2010, Zarr has been collaborating closely with the National Park Service, the National Recreation and Park Association, and the Institute at the Golden Gate, among many others, to create a rapidly growing National ParkRx Initiative. You can read more in depth about Dr. Zarr and his work on NACHC story site. We are using the site to document how health centers are defying conventional medicine with new and cutting edge ways foster wellness in their patient populations.

If your health center is doing something innovative with patient care, let us know and we’ll help you tell that story. Make sure to follow the #CHCsInnovate hashtag on Twitter to learn more about health center innovation.