A Report from Curry County
As Jan Kaplan, director of Curry County health department, explains how the county got into its financial mess and what it means for the future of public health, it dawns on me that perhaps the timing couldn’t be better. With health care transformation under way in Oregon, new opportunities for collaboration between medical providers, insurers, and public health are emerging. This could mean that local health departments struggling to fund essential services under the current model may find innovative ways to strengthen the infrastructure necessary to support healthy communities.
Curry County is, in many ways, at the forefront in this effort.
Earlier this year, as the Board of Commissioners considered the alternative ways to provide services and this last May 1, the Board gave the official go-ahead for the health department to become a non-profit.
Other options being explored are a potential merger of the health department with another organization or a formal contractual partnership.
Whatever the model, Curry County health department is positioning itself to be an active partner in the development of a Coordinated Care Organization in the area. The Department’s Healthy Communities team is leading visioning councils in each of the coastal communities in the county that will help develop a Community Health Assessment and a Health Improvement Plan, both of which will be required of CCOs. And the department has received some financial support from Mid-Rogue IPA to implement a maternal care home demonstration project that would expand the department’s capacity for home visits, improve care coordination and provide nutritional guidance for pregnant mothers, and until the child reaches age 5.
Not only would this program address a key issue in the fight against obesity and related chronic diseases like diabetes; it would also demonstrate how a performance-based payment system could work.
So, despite its fiscal challenges, Curry County has some bright spots in its future and it could certainly be an example for other counties in the state seeking to have healthier communities.