This fall, OCH staff visited with all contracted partners including those contracted under the Medicaid Transformation Project, Expanding the OCH Table, and Youth Engagement, to hear directly from partners about successes, opportunities, and to foster strong partnerships. Site visits inform OCHs planning for upcoming activities, trainings, events, resources, and connections amongst and between partners. Almost all site visits occurred in-person, a happy return to pre-pandemic times, and OCH staff are delighted to re-invigorate visits and travel across the entire Olympic region.
Partners continue to embody resilience in the face of many adversities. Creative projects and approaches to best meet community needs can be found from the far reaches of the West End, to the very South of Kitsap County and everywhere in between.
What we heard from partners
Workforce – Recruitment and retainment of the health-serving workforce continues to be a top challenge across the region for all partner types, read more in OCH’s Strengthening the Health-serving Workforce report. Many partners report that the issue of workforce spans all position types. Several partners cited challenges around hiring and retaining medical assistants and nurses. Support for the existing workforce is also needed. Many successes are found across the region to address these challenges:
North Olympic Healthcare Network continues to explore ways to maximize their use of existing Medical Assistants, including establishing a team structure.
First Step Family Support Center provided SUD Stigma and LGBTQ Core Competency training for all staff.
The Clallam Resilience Project continue to expand Handle With Care work across schools, first responders, and community-based organizations in Clallam County.
COVID-19 impacts – Throughout COVID-19 and continuing this year, many partners have necessarily focused inwards, limiting capacity for connections and collaboration. High turnover, leadership changes, and necessary adaptations are a few of those impacts. Partners are starting to look outward again towards reinvigorating connections and community-clinical linkages.
Olympic Area Agency on Aging hired a community engagement specialist and are actively looking to strengthen community connections and partnerships.
Kitsap Public Health District, Peninsula Community Health Services, Kitsap Children’s Clinic, and the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties partnered on Connect2Vax to improve Kitsap County COVID-19 vaccination rates.
Hospital capacity – Local hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, amplified now by flu, RSV, and COVID-19 high hospitalization rates, leaving minimal capacity for innovation.
OCH partnered with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s Health Connections team who is expanding in Kitsap County to support folks eligible for Health Homes.
Serenity House of Clallam County expanded to provide medical respite shelter for people who would otherwise be unable to discharge safely from the hospital.
Poulsbo Fire CARES and the Port Angeles Fire Department Community Paramedicine meet people where they are. These programs have shown to be an effective strategy to reduce unnecessary visits to local hospitals.
Determinants of health – Unmet social needs continue to be great across the region. Housing and transportation are frequently cited barriers.
Sequim Food Bank plans to re-vamp their lots to accommodate community and clinical partners on-site, meeting people where they are.
Eagles Wings Coordinated Care will finish renovation on a housing unit for people in recovery early next year. This housing unit will support people in recovery from SUD, housing an underserved and vulnerable population.
Stigma of substance use disorder – Community stigma of SUD continues to be high and pervasive across the Olympic region. Read more about the impacts and prevalence of stigma in OCHs Becoming a Recovery Friendly Region presentation.
Kitsap Mental Health Services has focused on addressing SUD stigma starting internally by integrating SUD team, moving away from abstinence only models of care, and providing Narcan training for all staff.
Clallam County Health and Human Services is including more wrap around services in the syringe exchange program, including a partnership with Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic to embed a SUD-P on-site.
Next steps for OCH
OCH prioritizes themes from partner site visits and reports in future planning. In 2023 OCH will prioritize training for the health-serving workforce around Trauma Informed Care and Equity.
In addition to the trainings listed above, OCH will continue promoting the Coffee Break Video Series, addressing local health issues through community conversations and shared cups of coffee.
OCH is excited to collaborate with partners around implementation of the Olympic Action Collaboratives action plans in early 2023. Funding opportunities will be announced in the coming months.
OCH continues to serve as the regional hub for Care Connect WA, supporting people in isolation for COVID-19. OCH will continue planning for future renewal waiver activities around community-based care coordination.
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The OCH team would like to thank every one of our partners for their continued creativity and dedication to a region of healthy people and thriving communities. We are so inspired by the many partnerships, both old and new, and look forward to continuing to collaborate. We are stronger together.