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Barton Health

Matthew Wonnacott: Improving Community Health

This week, June 2-8, is Community Health Improvement Week; a national celebration recognizing the hard work of local care providers to improve their community’s health.

Barton is committed to providing quality care and staying focused on the most pressing health needs of our community. After extensive surveying through the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), we know our area’s top three health concerns continue to lie in mental health, substance abuse, and access to care. Barton Health’s 2018 assessment and resulting action plan will again focus on mental health, substance abuse and access to care because they are prevalent in our community. We do not expect to solve these issues, but we strive to work with local partners to constantly develop programs that address and mitigate the escalation of these complex issues. Together, we will continue to make progress to provide critical care in these areas:

Mental Health
May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and Barton and other local partners just wrapped up our 31-day Mental Health Challenge that provided resources, free events, and tips to reduce stigma and improve well-being from specialists at Barton as well as partners in the community. Barton’s expansion of Behavioral Health services and wellness programs that improve mental health and well-being are directly related to feedback received from local residents in the CHNA.

Barton Health and its community partners in the Behavioral Health Network of South Lake Tahoe were awarded a $900,000 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) federal grant to improve access to mental and behavioral health services in the greater South Lake Tahoe area. This effort includes collaborating with Unite Us, a digital data platform that connects medical and community-based services into one system for referrals and care management. Depending on a person’s identified health care needs, the technology and a dedicated staff member will help guide the individual to appropriate services leading to the right path and improving continuity of care.

Substance Abuse
The CHNA additionally showed our community has issues substance abuse. In an effort to address the opioid crisis and help those struggling with narcotic dependency, Barton now offers a Medication-assisted Treatment Program. This treatment program eliminates the need to travel hours to the closest treatment center, and takes a “whole person” approach that works to remove stigma while providing tools to treat opioid dependency with supportive medication. Barton Health developed an internal pain management task force to focus on prescribing or providing alternative therapies to opioids, such as physical therapy, acupuncture, physiatry, yoga, and mindfulness.

Community health improvement is not just about what Barton is doing to address pressing health care needs of the local area – it’s what all of us are doing together. Barton Health continues to support the Drug Store Project and Every 15 Minutes, youth education programs focused on the consequences of alcohol and drug use. We are delighted to see Lake Tahoe Unified School District now offering a parent-texting network to stay informed about substance use issues at their student’s school.

Access to Care
Looking back over the last year, Barton made tremendous strides in improving access to health care. Over $5.5 million in hospital and physician charity care was provided at free or discounted rates for eligible low-income, uninsured, or under insured patients. Barton’s five certified Covered California enrollment counselors assisted 91 community members get medical coverage. Barton also welcomed a nine new providers in 2018, and recently expanded care with a new physician at Barton Urology and new Barton Neurology office in South Lake Tahoe.

Adding new service lines and care providers is just the beginning. Since identifying access to care issues through the CHNA, the Barton Community Health Center (BCHC), a rural health designated clinic providing medical care to the underserved population, expanded by 3,000 square feet and added seven exam rooms. The BCHC expanded their hours and now offers same-day and Saturday appointments. And throughout Barton Health, Telehealth services are available with ten different specialties allowing patients to speak to specialists locally, saving time and travel. At the new Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, free sports physicals were recently offered to local student athletes to help keep them enjoying the mental and physical health benefits of staying active through sports.

Barton Health will continue to focus on efforts that keep our independent, non-profit healthcare system providing safe, high-quality care for our community. Our team of compassionate and skilled care providers continue to earn industry recognition, from our recent ‘A’ grade for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group to a Four-star Overall Rating from Hospital Compare. We are proud to serve our community and work together to take up our area’s most pressing health needs.

Dr. Matthew Wonnacott is Chief Medical Officer at Barton Health. For more information about Barton’s 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment, visit bartonhealth.org/communityhealth.