CCAHEC Regional Health Connector Summary
The Regional Health Connector program has been a statewide, joint effort between Trailhead Institute, formally Colorado Foundation for Public Health and Environment, and the Colorado Health Institute. Funding was received through two practice transformation initiatives in Colorado which include EvidenceNOW Southwest (ENSW) and the Colorado State Innovation Model (SIM). All these efforts are part of the overarching practice transformation initiative called the Colorado Health Extension System. RHCs work with local partners, public health, human services and local organizations in order to review existing initiatives and data, align local priorities, identify opportunities for coordination, develop implementation plans and find additional resources, as needed. Measurable RHC activities include networking, coordinating, and collaborating. The Regional Health Connector program focuses on Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in an attempt to address the social and health disparities within the local population. As a host organization, CCAHEC was hosting two of the twenty-one Regional Health Connectors (RHCs) that are located throughout the state. Ashley Hill was RHC for Colorado Health Statistic Region (HSR) 17 which covers Park, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties since February 2017. Darlyn Baker was RHC for HSR 4, which covers El Paso and Teller counties. Darlyn was one of the original RHCs but joined CCAHEC in 2018.
"CCAHEC will continue to be a resource and a partner in its communities."
Each RHC develops three projects addressing behavioral health and cardiovascular health issues in their region. After much collaboration with regional stakeholders, both RHCs determined regional alignment between Local Priorities and Colorado SIM/ENSW target areas. Ashley identified access to primary care, access to mental health resources and stigma reduction and public awareness of opioid epidemic to focus on in HSR 17. HSR 17 encompasses some very rural, isolated mountain communities. Each community presents unique health challenges. When she started, Ashley worked as RHC without any primary care offices located within the entire region. Through the RHC Program, Ashley was able to establish a health service district to bring a clinic back to Fairplay which will open this fall. A temporary clinic was also established in Clear Creek County. Ashley brought many Mental Health First Aid trainings to her communities. Ashley was very active in Communities That Care in Clear Creek County, now called Mountain Youth Network. Ashley also wrote grants for Clear Creek County Public Health and Human Services that totaled $1.5 million to construct a Collaborative Care Center in Idaho Springs that would house primary care, behavioral health, dental, public health, and human services in one building.
Darlyn focused on obesity, substance use prevention and developing behavioral health partnerships and collaborations. Darlyn integrated Healthy Eating Active Living principles through the primary care setting while addressing food insecurity. Darlyn also addressed alcohol, opioids, and other substance use in the primary care setting including prescribing practices, chronic pain management, SBIRT-Screening, and resources/referrals for Substance Use Disorder treatment. Darlyn also formalized communication and partnerships to simplify access and referrals and promoting collaboration towards common goals around behavioral health and social determinants of health resources.
Although the RHC Program ended in June of this year, CCAHEC will continue to be a resource and a partner in its communities. Darlyn left CCAHEC to focus on becoming a Nurse Practitioner, and Ashley was retained by CCAHEC and became a Development Director on July 1, 2019. One of Ashley’s priorities is community outreach and aligns with the Regional Health Connector Program. Ashley will continue to support local initiatives that: address local priorities within program target areas; support practice transformation efforts; support population health strategies; address social determinants of health; and build and strengthen regional partnerships. CCAHEC is maintaining a working relationship with the Regional Health Connectors program through at least the end of December 2019. Through Ashley’s work, CCAHEC will participate in ongoing partner meetings and calls with other RHC hosts to ensure CCAHEC continues to reach the communities it serves.