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Projects Transform Health Care Delivery in Region

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Creating new and innovative systems and approaches to delivering health care services is a top priority of the region’s InterCommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization (IHN-CCO), which serves Benton, Lincoln and Linn County.

Coordinated care organizations, or CCOs, provide health coverage for Oregon’s Medicaid population. As Oregon begins its second five-year contract with the state’s 15 CCOs, IHN-CCO has emerged as a recognized leader for impacting and influencing health care transformation. A key reason is its Delivery System Transformation Committee (DST), which was created “from the ground up” and funds innovative pilot projects designed to reimagine how health care is delivered.

“Nobody else is doing this,” said Sherlyn Dahl, former executive director of the Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties and the founding cochair of the IHN-CCO’s Delivery System Transformation Committee (DST). “It’s not about funding something good. It’s about finding something new.”

The DST’s formula for success is to target where funds are spent, focusing on spreading and sustaining successful projects and deepening the impact of the work through community partnerships. By working with community partners, IHN-CCO is improving health outcomes, while increasing access and lowering the cost of health care.

“The landscape is changing, and with that change we have an opportunity to make real change in our communities,” said Beck Johnson, the new community co-chairperson of DST and director of the Bravery Center at the Olalla Center.

Since 2013, more than $20 million has been invested in 65 pilot projects that have been completed in collaboration with more than 50 community partners. Pilot projects funded through IHN-CCO’s Transformation Plan represent some of the most innovative work.

“We are at a critical juncture,” said Johnson. “The projects we choose to support now must reflect our commitment to health equity, increasing access and improving care for the most marginalized populations in our region.”

This includes the Tri-County Traditional Health Worker Training Hub, which prepares people to fill critical roles in health care and social services , including the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. The training hub, the first of its kind in the Willamette Valley, began as a pilot project. During the six-week program, participants who share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status or life experiences with people needing services learn to navigate the health care and social services systems.

“Traditional health workers are good at breaking barriers because they’ve already had to break barriers for themselves or their family members,” said Kelly Volkmann, health navigation program manager for Benton County Health Services.

Those who complete the course are eligible to obtain state certification to work in the health care or social services industries. Certified workers fill positions, such as doulas, addiction and recovery peer support specialists and health navigators providing culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance. This local network of skilled traditional health workers stands ready to bridge the gap. When Benton County issued an emergency declaration because of COVID-19, Ulisses Fraile-Martinez was chosen as the spokesperson to deliver video briefings tailored to the Spanish speaking community. Fraile-Martinez was in the first class to complete health worker training in 2018. Since then, more than 80 people have received training to work in this emerging and important role in health care, and courses are regularly offered in all three counties.

“The Traditional Worker Training Hub is a collaboration of community partners that care, want to be successful and maximize our resources together,” said Volkmann. “I couldn’t imagine doing this on our own.” To learn more about IHN-CCO’s transformative work, visit ihntogether.org/Transforming-health-care.