The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation’s Health and Human Services Department serves the health needs of tribal members and other eligible residents on the Colville Indian Reservation. Work also extends to a 50-mile radius of the Reservation border to include members in Stevens, Lincoln, Grant, and Douglas counties.
The department’s public health and social services programs – which include behavioral health, speech/language pathology, and Area Agency on Aging offerings – are delivered to members in Inchelium, Nespelem, Omak, and Keller in Okanogan and Ferry counties. Services are available through clinics in Nespelem and Omak, as well as the Lake Roosevelt Community Health Centers in Keller and Inchelium. Additionally, the fall of 2021 saw the opening in Keller of the San Poil Treatment Center, a 46-bed drug treatment facility.
NCACH has been supporting improvements to the Colville Reservation’s tribal health system by funding investments to jumpstart the infrastructure and capacity building efforts there. This assistance has helped the tribal system grow its public health data team, develop new healthcare dashboards, and upgrade information technology equipment, in addition to implementing business plans and staff trainings. The Colville Reservation’s HHS staff looks forward to expanding the use of data to inform its cross-disciplinary and collaborative practices as part of its mission to provide health services that are built on traditional values and teachings.
How have the Colville Tribes and its partnership with NCACH made an impact on making improvements on the health and well-being of its communities? Here are the insights from tribal health system staff members Roberta Hall (healthcare business office supervisor), Leah Hart-Ross (director of Business and Strategy), Amy Church (revenue cycle manager), and Dr. Daniel Barbara (director of Health and Human Services):
1. What are you most proud of accomplishing with the help of NCACH funds?
Our biggest accomplishment with the NCACH funds was the purchase and implementation of the NextGen electronic health records system and onboarding an epidemiologist to help research and gather information that will continue to help us reduce the risks and occurrences of negative health outcomes.
The NextGen electronic health records system is the crux of our in-house data collection systems. The system provides superior data support. With the implementation of this new system, we anticipate having an elevated patient-provider relationship as tracking and maintaining patient data is improved. NextGen gives the patient more integrated and whole person care due to streamlining all services, schedules, appointments, findings, and bills to one central hub.
The addition of a data scientist on staff will ensure that community interest and need, supported by data, are kept at the top of mind in keeping our community safe and healthy.
2. How was the prior electronic health records system holding you back, and what will be most helpful about transitioning into the new records system?
The prior system was not developed for use with an integrated behavioral health program. It lacked in many areas such as scheduling, task management, patient engagement, standard provider documentation areas, revenue cycle, and reporting, and was just overall inconsistent and did not offer seamless information. It was costly, not customizable, and lacked in support and customer service.
The new records program from NextGen offers integration through different programs that are crucial to our coordination of care. NextGen has robust scheduling, reporting, revenue cycle, and patient engagement systems. It contains useful tools, is customizable, and offers time-saving shortcuts. This can help alleviate the burden of documentation, advance clinical outcomes, connect with other health systems, streamline the revenue cycle, and elevate provider and patient satisfaction.
3. You used some of the NCACH funds for marketing of the San Poil Treatment Center, which opened last fall. Why was this an important strategy, and is it difficult to secure funds for these types of expenses?
These funds allowed us to hire an outside marketing firm for some of the projects thus allowing us to develop a more robust marketing strategy. Marketing for this facility has been extremely important in order to fill as many beds as possible. Our marketing team designed our website and created marketing packets for distribution to hospitals, clinics, detox centers, and other treatment centers in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Alaska.
4. What are you learning about the value of cross-sector partnerships or cross-disciplinary collaborative practice?
With the opening of the San Poil Treatment Center, we have had to reach out to many local clinics, hospitals, and detox centers in order to establish a relationship moving forward. These relationships and collaborations are extremely important for the success of our treatment center and these types of facilities will be our main source for referrals to fill our beds. We have learned the value of cross-sector partnerships and cross-disciplinary collaborative practice in our work with the ancillary behavior health program teams, corrections, police department, and others.
We have also formed some data sharing agreements with state and federal entities to share their data with us. Due to our database being newly established, we needed additional information to fill in those gaps with what our data scientist has been able to pull together internally. It also helps to have additional information to compare our internal data to.
The hardest part of this process has been the time commitment. There have been lots of phone calls and Zoom meetings to get to where we are now. But these relationships are a vital part of our growth for the Treatment Center and all our programs moving forward.
5. What are you most excited about or looking forward to in 2022, and why?
During 2022 we plan to finish implementation of NextGen within our tribal health programs and at the Convalescent Center. With the startup of the San Poil Treatment Center, we have used that facility as our initial implementation of NextGen. Once all kinks are worked out and NextGen is being fully used at San Poil Treatment Center, we will begin to switch our current electronic health records system to our new one.
We are also looking forward to break ground on our new Omak Health Clinic in the fall of 2022. The Omak Health Center will serve as a comprehensive community-based patient-centered medical home, with a full suite of on-site services across several disciplines and is being designed to ensure equal access to comprehensive acute and chronic care for Colville Tribal members, their families, and the greater Okanogan County community. The approximately 45,000-square-foot facility will house primary care and specialty care medicine, full-service dentistry, optometry and vision care, and a full-service pharmacy. Some of these are not currently offered on the reservation. There will also be innovative holistic care services (including opportunities for naturopathic medicine, chiropractic care, nutrition, and even acupuncture as alternatives to traditional medicine), radiology, laboratory, and behavioral health services (including chemical dependency treatment). Plus, integrated public health and complex disease case management services. The Omak Health Center will enhance access to primary care and expand access to first line specialty services.
6. What gives you optimism, and keeps you in the work and motivated?
The beauty of the growth that we have seen for our tribe in the last two years. We have grown our behavioral health program services to include the Colville Tribal community as a whole, and expanded our services to school districts on the reservation. We will keep growing, and this growth will include Omak Health Center.
7. What advice do you have for partners in the North Central Washington region who would like to collaborate more with the Colville Tribes?
Contact us any time! We are extremely open with partnering with any and all entities that want to work with us to better our community. Our goal is to broaden our services and make it easier to access our tribal members and community. If collaboration is needed to do this, we are more than willing to make that happen!