My turn: Barton helping beyond the hospital Walls

It takes collaboration and action to meet a community’s needs. In March 2012, Barton Health engaged with South Lake Tahoe residents to complete a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment. In the Affordable Care Act, all nonprofit hospitals must identify health needs for vulnerable, often under-served, populations within their community and create an action plan to address these needs.

Substance abuse is prevalent in South Lake Tahoe with four times the national average of illicit drug use, a high percentage of chronic drinkers, and a higher rate of drug-induced deaths. By 11th grade, 74 percent of South Tahoe High students admitted using alcohol and 56 percent had tried marijuana.

To discourage alcohol and drug use by local youth, Barton’s participated in and financially sponsored Every 15 Minutes and the Drug Store Project. To help reduce substance abuse, Barton joined and now chairs monthly South Tahoe Drug-Free Coalition meetings and donated $7,500 towards local non-profits that strive to combat substance abuse. Barton facilitated a six-session training on best pain management practices for County healthcare providers and hosted a physician seminar to discuss drug addiction and pain management.

Access to healthcare ranked second among the community’s health needs. To improve access and reduce financial barriers, Barton expanded the Community Health Center by 3,000 feet and added seven exam rooms to help under and uninsured. Services include Saturdays and same-day appointments. To save time and travel, Barton increased Telehealth services to include eight different specialties.

To encourage wellness and preventative care, Barton launched BWell, with discounted cash pay CT, EKG and lab services and free wellness lectures. Barton’s enrollment counselors provided more than 700 hours of staff time to help more than 125 uninsured families navigate and enroll in healthcare plans. Barton also implemented “Transitions in Care,” free post hospital follow-up care for patients with certain chronic medical conditions.

The third issue prioritized was mental health. Barton hired a full-time child psychiatrist for services at Barton Psychiatry and Barton Community Health Center and expanded tele-psychiatry services with four contracted psychiatrists.

In the community, Barton provided $28,000 in grants for local non-profits that address people with mental health needs. Barton hosted a community health forum, published five mental health articles and conducted two mental health wellness lectures. Barton Home Health and Hospice provides ongoing grief support and an annual children’s bereavement camp.

To continue efforts that serve our community, Barton will collect input for the next assessment in 2015. Residents will participate in phone surveys, public health data will be gathered and focus groups will provide a clinical and social service perspective.

View a complete report of how Barton’s results address the CHNA at

John G. Williams is the president and CEO of Barton Health.

Special to the Democrat

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