MSHA, Wellmont health systems to create community work groups; ask for public input

MSHA and Wellmont have to get state permission before they can merge, and that process involves a advisory group giving recommendations to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance officials said Wednesday they would be creating community work groups on key health issues in an effort to get public input.

According to a news release, the health systems are asking for community participation, as well as participation from nurses, health professionals, doctors, public health officials and community advocates, for the four planned work groups – Mental Health and Addiction, Healthy Children and Families, Research and Academics and Population Health and Healthy Communities.

“Our organizations have committed to an open process as we consider the creation of a truly new health improvement organization for our region,” Bart Hove, president and CEO of Wellmont, said. “These work groups provide a great opportunity for interested organizations and individuals to participate with us as we develop our strategies for improving the health of our area.”

According to the release, the work groups’ findings will be used by East Tennessee State University as “part of a deep-dive health needs assessment that will be conducted after the proposed merger between Mountain States and Wellmont is complete.”

The following is the full release issued by the health systems:

Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System officials are creating four community work groups designed to provide public input as the two organizations continue to explore the creation of a new, integrated and locally governed entity.

Through the website, BecomingBetterTogether.org, the health systems are requesting participation in the work groups from the community as well as subject matter experts such as nurses and other health professionals, doctors, public health officials and community advocates.

“Our organizations have committed to an open process as we consider the creation of a truly new health improvement organization for our region,” said Bart Hove, president and CEO of Wellmont. “These work groups provide a great opportunity for interested organizations and individuals to participate with us as we develop our strategies for improving the health of our area.”

The work groups will provide input in solving some of the region’s most challenging health issues: Mental Health and Addiction, Healthy Children and Families, Research and Academics, and Population Health and Healthy Communities. The work groups’ findings will be used by East Tennessee State University as part of a deep-dive health needs assessment that will be conducted after the proposed merger between Mountain States and Wellmont is complete.

That assessment will provide a road map for the proposed new health system as it lays out a 10-year plan to improve community health. The work group meetings are designed to focus specifically on health improvement and are separate from public meetings that will be held in Tennessee and Virginia as part of the state approval process for the proposed merger.

The work groups are divided into four key areas of opportunity:

Mental Health and Addiction – This group will evaluate the inventory of mental health and addiction services for adults and children in the area. Among other tasks, this group will assess gaps in access points, review strategies to prevent drug and alcohol use among youth and explore structures to better integrate primary care in coordinating mental health and addiction treatment. The proposed new system will be dedicated to partnering with the medical and social service community to combat addiction and help the next generation achieve its potential.

Healthy Children and Families – This group will identify the most prominent physical, behavioral and social health problems among children in the region and explore their causes. The group will examine access points for children and evaluate strategies that have worked well in other communities. In addition, this group will identify gaps in educational achievement, particularly literacy and basic skills, and take inventory of community services available for children with special needs and developmental or physical disabilities.

Research and Academics – This group will identify specific ways the proposed new organization can work with ETSU and other academic institutions to substantially enhance the health and economic development of the region by expanding research, training, and the application of public health policy to improve health.

Population Health and Healthy Communities – Incorporating input from the other work groups, this group will identify the top health problems in the region and their clinical and social causes and will inventory current and past efforts to address these problems. The group will also identify successful community governance structures used locally or nationally (such as accountable care communities) that leverage schools, businesses, civic and faith groups, health care providers and government to improve health and wellness.

“Reducing untimely deaths and suffering from heart disease, diabetes, addiction and other chronic diseases through better screening, prevention and treatment is critical to improving the overall health of our region,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States. “But a healthy community is much more than the absence of disease – it means educated, safe and confident young people and adults able to pursue their ambitions and contribute to our community’s well-being.”

The work groups will begin meeting in July and will continue through the end of the year. Each group will hold public meetings, which will rotate throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, to seek input from members of the community as well as organizations and experts interested in these areas. Each work group will be led by a subject matter expert and will include members from throughout the region who represent a broad variety of experience and perspectives. Work groups will be staffed by members of Mountain States and Wellmont along with master’s and doctoral level students from ETSU.

Work groups will provide regular updates as well as final findings to the Integration Council, a group of executive and physician leaders from both systems who are overseeing the analysis and making preparations for the integration of the proposed combined system.

As these groups form, due diligence research, led by the Integration Council and the Joint Board Task Force, continues between Wellmont and Mountain States to establish the proposed new system. The next step is approval of a definitive agreement by both organizations’ boards of directors, after which the systems will enter a government approval phase that will likely take through the end of 2015.

During the due diligence and government approval phases and until the closing, Mountain States and Wellmont will continue “business as usual” as two separate and independent organizations.

To learn more about the work groups and how to participate, visit BecomingBetterTogether.org.

Copyright 2015 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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