Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s success with its new Medication Assisted Treatment program garnered the District top honors Thursday night from the Association of California Healthcare Districts (ACHD) as it named NIHD Healthcare District of the Year for 2019.
Accepting the honors was NIHD’s Board of Directors, including Board President Mary Mae Kilpatrick, Vice President Jean Turner, Treasurer MC Hubbard, and Member-At-Large Jody Veenker, along with Chief Executive Officer Kevin S. Flanigan, MD MBA, and former NIHD Board Member Dr. John Ungersma. Board Member Robert Sharp was unable to attend.
When NIHD was announced as the winner Dr. Flanigan stated, “As I looked at the list of nominees and their accomplishments, I knew we deserved to be on the list but I was shocked when we were named considering what some of the other Healthcare Districts had accomplished in the past year. Some of these Districts are huge and have massive budgets but none can match our teams energy, commitment and dedication to the communities we serve.”
Calling the evening among the most humbling of his life, Dr. Flanigan credited the effort put forward by the entire NIHD team with securing the honor. “From the Board of Directors, to the leaders, to the medical staff, to the clinicians, to the administrative staff, to the environment of care team, both new and long standing staff everyone has a part in this award. Without everyone’s commitment to our Mission and our Vision we could not have saved the lives we have through the work we are doing.”
Earlier this year, NIHD began a Medication Assisted Treatment program funded and run by the District and other stakeholders for coordination of care. During the preceding three years, the District and others began to review opioid use and identified a trend in escalation of overdoses, deaths, criminal cases and medical issues associated with opioid use, misuse and abuse.
NIHD applied for and was one of 31 named recipients for the Bridge Grant. This allowed for the creation of the MAT program, which is now expanding into other areas of Behavioral Health treatment. Since implementation of the program, NIHD has seen more than 30 enrolled patients in three months; every Emergency Department physician earning special certification to prescribe the highly controlled anti-addiction medication; more than a half dozen patients treated with Narcan by police, first responders or private citizens outside of the hospital; and, adolescents seeking care.
Dr. Flanigan noted his pride in the District’s transition from avoiding patients with obvious signs of addiction, to identifying patient behaviors consistent with addiction and offering services. “Besides being able to offer this care, the culture shift is one of the greatest accomplishments I have seen,” Dr. Flanigan said.
The Association of California Healthcare Districts works with numerous state and local entities to promote the critical role Healthcare Districts play in responding to the specialized health needs of tens of millions of Californians while also having direct accountability to the communities that Districts serve.