Decatur County Healthcare Courtesy Van

Written by: Corey Lindsey, Leon Journal-Reporter

The Decatur County Hospital, Decatur County Public Health, and Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa (CHCSI) are pleased to announce the offering of Healthcare Transportation to residents of Decatur County.

Providing such transportation was one of the top eight needs that was discussed during a Community Health Needs Assessment that was conducted by the above three entities during the first half of 2019.

This assessment is required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and is conducted every three years and helps determine the focus of the health facilities.

Based on the research and a town hall meeting conducted on March 19, 2019, the following were deemed the top priorities for Decatur County during the next three year CHNA period: Economic Development/Employment Readiness, Substance Abuse (Alcohol/Drugs), Mental Health (Counseling/Therapists/Treatments), Child Care Services, Eye Doctors, Visiting Specialists, Public Healthcare Perception (encourage patients to seek care in Decatur County), and Healthcare Transportation.

The hospital, public health and CHCSI have joined forces to put the idea of Healthcare Transportation in motion and have made it a reality by purchasing a large conversion van that will be equipped to carry residents to and from appointments to any of these facilities in the county.

“We wanted to direct our focus to a need that offered immediate results,” stated Mike Johnston, CEO of Decatur County Hospital. “This transportation need has been discussed frequently over the last several times the assessment has been conducted and we felt it was time to make it happen.”

The transportation van will be available free of charge to those needing to get to their healthcare appointments. Patients will have to be established patients at one of the three locations (hospital, public health, or CHCSI) to use this service and it will be limited to residents residing in Decatur County. The van is equipped with a lift for wheelchair accessibility and there is space for two wheelchairs at the same time and/or 5-7 people. Also, no unaccompanied minors may ride. They have to be with a parent or guardian.

The primary contact for scheduling is the Decatur County Public Health. Scheduling will be done on a first come first serve basis. At least a 24 hour notice is required and patients may call 1-844-782-5420 to see about transportation. Services began Monday, January 20 and will be offered between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

According to Johnston, the initial cost of this project nears the $100,000 mark. This included the purchase of the vehicle. The three entities each contributed one-third in funding for the project.  All operating costs, driver salary, etc., will continue to be split three-ways in the years ahead.

In an ongoing effort to keep people in the county using local facilities for their healthcare needs, the Decatur County Hospital offers a multitude of specialty clinics with a myriad of services available.

Currently DCH offers 14 different specialty clinics of which 7 have recently been added in part as a result of the Needs Assessment study.

The ones most recently added include the following:

The hospital will continue to offer the following:

Mental Health and Substance Abuse needs also topped the list from the Needs Assessment Study. The Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa have addressed this need by the recent opening of the Access Center in Osceola.

With assessment and evaluation, 23 hour observation, 7 beds for subacute cases, 5 beds for crisis stabilization and residential services as well as a sobering room, peer support counseling, telehealth access and more, Osceola’s CHCSI facility will provide much-needed behavioral health support and services to the community while alleviating emergency room and police commitment to such cases.

In addition, CHCSI continues to offer part-time vision services at the Leon office.

As far as Economic Development, one of the needs that was identified from the Assessment was Job Readiness.

“As part of that effort, I have secured funding to build a jobs and internship database for the DCDC website,” stated Shannon Erb, Executive Director of Decatur County Development. “Along with the website, we are going to be doing some data collection, and then implement some training for local residents so they can be prepared to fill the job needs we have in Decatur County, so they don’t have to look elsewhere and commute.”

DCDC was also instrumental in opening of The NEST, which trains high school students with job specific skills.

Erb also pays close attention to workforce needs of the county. Through a Laborshead Study Analysis, conducted every two years (a service that is provided by the State of Iowa), data is collected to help determine what the county’s workforce is and leads to training opportunities as deemed necessary.

DCDC has also identified housing (quality and appropriate) as a major need throughout the county that needs addressed.

“I have worked with ISU Extension at the state-level to become selected to take part in the pilot Rural Housing Readiness Assessment program being offered beginning this year,” stated Erb.  “This program will allow community members to help identify and gather data on the housing needs in our communities, and then work together on plans to solve those needs.”