Rural Health Collaboration—Better Together
Five Memos of Understanding that provide the basis for sustainable Network governance were signed.
As at 30 June 21017, the Network had received $157,000 in grant funding to support its strategic plan.
People who participated in the process report they are hopeful, energised, and say relationships forged in the process remain strong, a prerequisite to continued impact.
Public officials have recognised the Network as providing a “strong voice” for the rural central coast health needs and credit it with influencing decisions to increase public health offerings in the community on a regular visiting basis.
Context and challenges
Peace Harbor Medical Center is a 21-bed acute care facility, with approximately 500 employees, located in the rural community of Florence, Oregon on Oregon’s central coast. The organisation’s purpose is to promote personal and community health and to provide care and comfort to the unwell.
Bound by the Pacific Ocean on the west and Coastal mountain range on the east, Florence area residents face significant barriers to access healthcare due to isolated geography and socioeconomic status. Behavioural health was particularly underserved. Services were fragmented, wait lists long, and residents were often too poor or ill to travel the 140-mile roundtrip to the nearest urban centre.
As a leading healthcare provider on the central Oregon coast, Peace Harbor wanted to address long standing behavioural health access issues. They couldn’t do it alone. The project objective was to collaborate with other community-based resources to work together in new ways to improve access to behavioural health care. Specific objectives were to:
- Co-create a strategic plan.
- Strengthen the network of partners.
- Establish a sustainable shared governance model with partners that enabled shared leadership for strategic plan implementation.
Peace Harbor engaged KJ Smith Associates to design and facilitate a collaborative planning process for community-based behavioural health providers and key stakeholders.
The kick-off was a one day facilitated summit. Facilitation was used to enable participants to learn more about each other’s respective roles and identify service gaps. Participants expressed willingness to engage in a longer-term collaborative planning process and reconvened eight times over a period of eight months. Each was a facilitated session, typically lasting 6-hours.
Facilitation was used to strengthen relationships, create collaborative norms, prioritise needs, explore alternative approaches to address needs, co-design approaches to address unique needs of this rural area, and come to consensus agreement on final strategic plan objectives and strategies.