The Douglas County Communities Network of Care is a group of several community partners that provides a one-stop resource directory to help people locate needed services from local agencies.

The network, which was formed in early 2018, includes CHI Mercy Medical Center, Evergreen Family Medicine, the Douglas Public Health Network, the Douglas Education Service District, Mercy Foundation and Aviva Health and the Cow Creek Tribe.

On Nov. 18, about 40 people from business management, community leaders and health professionals in Douglas County came to the Cow Creek Tribal offices board room to listen to Klamath County Health Department Director Jennifer Little describe how her county has already implemented a program, called Healthy Klamath, that is similar to the one in Douglas County, but further along. She talked about the issues that she was facing in Klamath Falls — how similar they are to the issues that Douglas County is facing — like struggling to get health professionals to come to the rural areas and getting health care to the remote areas the county.

Little told the audience that Klamath’s big issue was getting all the agencies to have one community health improvement plan. She said Klamath County had several organizations with their own community health assessments and improvement plans and they didn’t overlap.

“We thought ‘What are we doing, we all live in the same community, why don’t we have one plan for all of us?’ and this is the first year that everyone got onto one plan,” Little said.

Klamath County aligned with the Blue Zones Project, whose goals are similar to what they were trying to accomplish. With Blue Zones also in Douglas County, Little said the county is on the right track.

“I do think so. Having this network is the same as Healthy Klamath and that’s really where we rallied, and once Blue Zones is over it will morph into Healthy Klamath, that’s the vision ,” Little said. “”I think this Network of Care is a really great first step.”

The strategy, said Dr. Tim Powell the medical director at Evergreen Family Medicine and the physician champion for the project, is for those partners to connect resources to people who don’t know how to find them.

“It’s a pool to really galvanize the community toward a needs assessment and then a common action plan. There’s a large discrepancy in older services and we need to consolidate that so it’s easy access,” Powell said.

Kathleen Nickel, communications director at CHI Mercy said the network in Douglas County is made up of a variety of community health leaders and a number of other social supports that are coming together to figure out how to collectively address health issues in the community, and look at what each of the entities is doing and how to move forward together.

The hospital is required to do an assessment every three years to identify the deficiencies in the community or underserved populations, but the Network of Care would like to see one assessment that serves all the groups instead of everyone doing their own.

“We want to do a single Community Health Needs Assessment and a single CHIP (community health improvement plan),” Nickel said.

“So the idea is how we can combine synergies and do this work together. She (Jennifer Little) was talking about maybe if you’re on a five-year plan, we go to a three-year plan, whatever we need to do so that there’s alignment across all these different platforms,” said David Price, mission leader at Mercy.

The striking similarities of issues between Klamath Falls and Roseburg peaked the interest of those in the Douglas County network in what Klamath County is doing to improve the health of their county.

“As I sat and listened to Jennifer, this voice in my head kept saying, that’s it, that’s what I’m talking about,” Powell said.

To find out more about the Douglas County Communities Network of Care go to http://douglas.or.networkofcare.org/

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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