Organization Newsletter

July 2014

In this issue...

  1. The New Blue H: A Report on the Findings of the 2014 Rural Health Workgroup
  2. Medicaid Expansion: How Does Rural Washington Measure Against Other States?
  3. CMS Regional Listening Sessions in Rural WA and ID Aug 25-28
  4. New ICD-10 Deadline for Compliance
  5. Multi-Family Group Treatment Studied to Help Spinal Cord Injury Victims
  6. Having Your Own Sign Makes It Official
  7. On Track for a Safe Summer
  8. Healing Our Heroes
  9. New Air Medical Helicopter Added to Northwest MedStar Fleet
  10. Rural Health Class Field Trip to Grays Harbor County
  11. Learn the Basics of Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Planning


The Washington Rural Health Association e-newsletter is a publication of Washington Rural Health Association, a not-for-profit association composed of individual and organization members who share a common interest in rural health. This e-newsletter seeks to disseminate news and information of interest to rural health professionals and stakeholders to help establish a state and national network of rural health care advocates.

WRHA members include administrators, educators, students, researchers, government agencies and workers, physicians, hospitals, clinics, migrant and community clinics, public health departments, insurers, professional associations and educational institutions. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with WRHA click here.

The New Blue H: A Report on the Findings of the 2014 Rural Health Workgroup

submitted by: Kim Kelley
[email protected]

Last September, Secretary of Health John Wiesman and Scott Bond, President of the Washington State Hospital Association asked staff to bring together a work group of rural stakeholders to examine barriers and opportunities to maintaining and improving access to health care services in rural communities.  The work group split into subgroups representing acute care, primary care and prevention, behavioral health, long term care, emergency medical services/transportation, and workforce to explore opportunities in these service sectors in depth. The report summarizing the work group’s recommendations to Secretary Wiesman and Scott Bond will be sent out via the DOH Rural Health listserv and through other media in mid-August. Our next step is to work with partners and stakeholders to prioritize the recommendations based on feasibility, value, funding, staffing resources, and alignment with other healthcare initiatives, and build them into work plans.

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Medicaid Expansion: How Does Rural Washington Measure Against Other States?

Submitted by: Bonnie Burlingham
[email protected]

A lot of us are feeling squeezed by the changes needed to meet the vision of the Affordable Care Act, concerns about budgets, and the speedy pace at which this is all happening.  We sometimes put on blinders and run as fast as we can because it is all we can do to keep up.  In the middle of this, we have some good news - it is not for naught.  Early research shows us that Washington has more rural residents that have signed up for insurance than other states’ rural residents.  What is one determining factor?  Washington is one of the states that chose to expand Medicaid.

A newly released study by the University of North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center compared states that expanded Medicaid to those that didn’t.  Compared with other states, Washington is top notch.  While there are still uninsured and underinsured residents, the sheer number of people that were able to access coverage via Medicaid and Exchange options is impressive.  It is too early to tell what access to care will really look like with the newly insured, but we can be assured that rural clinics and hospitals have more of a fighting chance of keeping their doors open.  The results of not expanding in other states have been devastating. Rural hospitals that are closing or reducing services in other states are citing lack of Medicaid expansion as a significant contributing factor.

Only time will tell what the rural demand for care will be, but we have started to put the pieces together.  It is hoped that newly insured consumers will be able to better access care when they need it.  Slowly, we might begin to close the gap in health status and poverty. If there are residents in your community that need assistance signing up for insurance, see the Washington Healthplanfinder website for information on dates for open enrollment, plan comparisons, and special enrollment opportunities.  Let’s keep the good work moving.

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CMS Regional Listening Sessions in Rural WA and ID Aug 25-28

submitted by: Kim Kelley
[email protected]

Serving the needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in rural areas provides unique challenges for health care providers. The Seattle Regional Office for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes this and sets out each year to meet with rural health providers to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face and to offer assistance where we can. From August 25 to August 28, CMS Regional Administrator John Hammarlund will host outreach and listening sessions throughout eastern Washington, with rural health providers, billers, and administrators. This year is an especially noteworthy opportunity for providers to have a conversation with CMS because joining the Seattle Regional staff will be Ms. Carol Blackford, Deputy Director for Chronic Care Policy Group, at CMS’ headquarters. Ms. Blackford plays an integral role in developing national Medicare policies and standards on payment for services provided by skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, hospices, and for durable medical equipment.

In an effort to keep providers informed about the newest CMS initiatives that directly impact their services, CMS staff will provide updates on the new DME pre-authorization requirements, several new payment rules, data transparency, and our Coverage to Care campaign for the newly insured. For busy healthcare providers looking for information from CMS and looking to share information with CMS, this is an opportunity not to miss.

The success of the road trip rests on the generosity of the hospitals in the communities who graciously open the door to their meeting rooms to assist CMS in meeting with the provider community. Registration information for the events can be found at:

The schedule for the CMS outreach and listening sessions:

8/25  Wenatchee, Chelan
8/26  Brewster, Tonasket, Colville
8/27  Newport (WA), Sandpoint (ID)
8/28  Ephrata, Quincy

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New ICD-10 Deadline for Compliance

submitted by: Kim Kelley
[email protected]

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Final Rule officially setting the ICD-10 effective date as October 1, 2015.  In addition, HHS is also mandating continued use of ICD-9 through September 30, 2015.  By mandating use of ICD-9 through the end of September, 2015, individual payers cannot voluntarily seek to adopt ICD-10 prior to October 1 as some had suggested.  

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Multi-Family Group Treatment Studied to Help Spinal Cord Injury Victims

submitted by: Jerrie Heyamoto

[email protected]

Every year severe trauma caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, violence and sports results in more than 12,000 spinal cord injuries in the United States, mostly in young men. Those dealing with this life-changing condition may soon have a better way to cope, thanks to a new collaborative research project by Washington State University Spokane and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

“Spinal cord injury impacts so many aspects of a person’s health and daily life, and we’ve recognized that more could be done to support this population,” said WSU Professor of Psychology Dennis Dyck, who leads the project with Douglas Weeks, senior research investigator at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

The researchers will conduct a clinical trial to establish whether multi-family group treatment, a psycho-educational intervention originally developed for schizophrenia, can help improve the quality of life of persons with spinal cord injury and their caregivers. The two-year project is funded through a $289,495 psychosocial research grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a private grant making foundation that focuses on spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation.

“We want to see if an intervention that provides more focus on psychological support is going to have a positive impact on the lives of patients and their caregivers,” said Weeks, adding that spinal cord injury puts particular stress on family members who are suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver.

The research team will recruit 32 people who were discharged from inpatient treatment for spinal cord injury at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute within the past three years, along with their primary caregivers. Each patient-caregiver team will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: a group that will receive multi-family group treatment, which offers individualized education, support and coping strategies to help manage spinal cord injury, or an active control group that will be given general information in a lecture format. Both groups will receive six months of treatment led by experienced clinicians at St. Luke’s. The first groups will start this summer.

 “We think the individualized, problem-solving approach of multi-family group treatment is going to be helpful overall, but especially so for those who are still new to having to cope with spinal cord injury,” said Dyck.

The new project builds on an earlier collaborative study conducted a decade ago that first sought to adapt the multi-family group treatment approach for people with spinal cord injury. That study offered promising preliminary outcomes, but also had some limitations that this new study will address, said Dyck, who also pioneered the use of multi-family group treatment in people with traumatic brain injury and dementia.

If the findings from the new study favor the use of multi-family group treatment for spinal cord injury, the researchers’ next step will be to pursue a larger, multi-site clinical trial to further validate the results.

“We hope that, by forming a support system and deepening the coping relationship between the patient and the caregiver, people will be able to adapt to the injury to such a degree that their quality of life is improved,” said Weeks.

For more information on WSU Spokane, visit
For more information on St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, visit

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Having Your Own Sign Makes It Official

submitted by: Jillian Connolly

[email protected]

Danny L. Jones, PA-C, better known as DJ, joined the Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center on May 5, 2014.  He has been kept busy seeing patients since his arrival and has been well received.

DJ recently completed his ATLS Training (Advanced Trauma Life Support), which is a requirement for providers to see patients in the Emergency Room. This is not an easy class, so congratulations go to DJ. He will also soon be completing the new required training and testing to become a Certified Department of Transportation (DOT) Medical Examiner for patients who need the Federal DOT truck driving exams. In the meantime, he can do the non-NIDA DOT physicals. Doctors Powell and Olson have completed their Federal DOT Certification Medical Examiner testing.

DJ provides Family Practice care and includes foot care for diabetics or peripheral neuropathy and cortisone injections for the knee. Athletic, camp, or well child physicals, DOT exams, pre-employment and adult physicals, chronic disease management, and acute needs are just a few of the types of care available through Family Practice.

Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center is dedicated to our mission of “bringing caring quality healthcare to our community.” Give us a call at 509-982-2614 to make an appointment for your healthcare needs with any of our providers: Linda J Powell, MD, Craig A Olson, MD or DJ Jones, PA-C.  We are here to give you high quality care. 

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On Track for a Safe Summer

submitted by: Damon Pilgrim
[email protected] 

We all know that summer is a time of playground fun, camping, swimming and other outdoor activities.  But with 40% of all injury-related emergency room visits and 42% of all injury deaths happening between May and August, summer is also a time of higher risk for serious childhood injuries.  The good news is that most of these injuries are preventable with education and simple precautions.

To spread the word on how to stay “On Track for a Safe Summer,” Shriners Hospitals for Children is joining forces with NASCAR driver, and fellow Shriner, David Ragan to help parents know what they can do to reduce the risks of injuries this summer.  As the newest Love to the Rescue Ambassador, Ragan will participate in a series of public service announcements, hospital visits and other events to raise awareness of the exceptional pediatric care available at Shriners Hospitals for Children, should a life-threatening or life-changing injury occur.

Additionally, David will be joined by 14 year-old Brendon Wiseley, a Shriners Hospitals for Children Patient Ambassador and fifth generation racecar driver, in a Satellite Media Tour live from the NASCAR Museum in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.  Keep your eyes on the Shriners Hospitals for Children Facebook page to follow along with the action! 

The Spokane Shriners Hospital has been treating simple to complex pediatric orthopaedic needs of the surrounding communities for 90 years.  Education and awareness is the key to a fun, safe summer, but should an accident happen, the experts at Shriners Hospitals for Children Spokane are waiting to help.

See Brendon Wiseley’s story here:
See David Ragan and Brendon Wiseley’s PSA here:
Safe Kids Worldwide,

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Healing Our Heroes

submitted by: Kelly Copp
[email protected]

Ongoing collaborative efforts with several regional AHECs and the Veterans Rural Health Resource Center has produce an upcoming continuing education and training opportunity specifically focused on rural providers and community advocates providing Veterans throughout western Washington.

We are excited to announce that on September 23rd in DuPont, Washington (half way between Tacoma and Olympia on I-5) WWAHEC will be offering a FREE one day behavioral health care conference on Post-Traumatic Stress and Suicide prevention.

Leading experts from the Veterans Administration will be speaking. Including Dr. Greg M. Reger Director of the Suicide Prevention Program for VA Puget Sound. Most recently, Dr. Reger spent 5 years as a civilian with the Department of Defense leading teams designing, piloting, and evaluating technology in support of psychological health.  Dr. Reger has led significant research in the area.     

Please share this unique program with others in your community. Seating is limited to 60 and priority will be given to rural providers.  Register and Learn more at or contact Kelly Copp at WWAHEC 206-441-7137 or [email protected].

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New Air Medical Helicopter Added to Northwest MedStar Fleet

Submitted by: Jerrie Heyamoto
[email protected]

Northwest MedStar received its third Airbus EC135 helicopter from Metro Aviation, Inc. in June to provide critical care transport for patients in the region.

“We’re excited to introduce this aircraft to our fleet,” says Eveline Bisson, Northwest MedStar director.

The new EC135 brings the total number of helicopters to seven - four legacy aircraft and three new helicopters. The new aircraft comes as Northwest MedStar takes on significant expansion.  Northwest MedStar recently assumed air medical operations in Missoula, Montana and opened a new base in North Central Washington at Anderson Field Airport in Brewster.  Northwest MedStar now has six bases with locations in Missoula, MT., Spokane, Moses Lake, Brewster, Tri-Cities and Palouse region.

In addition to the rotor-wing aircraft, Northwest MedStar also transports patients with its fixed-wing airplanes and ground critical care ambulances.

Metro Aviation has provided operation services to Northwest MedStar since 1994.

About Northwest MedStar: Northwest MedStar, a Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) accredited critical care transport program since 1996, and the air medical industry’s 2012 Program of the Year, provides high-quality care and transport throughout Washington, Northern Idaho, Montana, and Eastern Oregon. Northwest MedStar also provides patient transport to Seattle and other facilities throughout the United States and parts of Canada.

Northwest MedStar offers a membership program that shields people from emergency air transport costs not covered by health insurance. For more information about Northwest MedStar or the membership program, visit:


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Rural Health Class Field Trip to Grays Harbor County

Submitted by: Peter House
[email protected]

As part of an interdisciplinary rural health course sponsored by the University of Washington’s Department of Family Medicine, a group of health sciences graduate students took a field trip to Grays Harbor County, Washington on May 10, 2014.

The purpose of the trip was three fold: 1. Expose students to dynamic rural health systems and practitioners as a means to promote careers in rural communities.  2. Impart information concerning issues and trends in rural communities.  3. Encourage students from the UW schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Social Work to learn about disciplines other than their own and consider opportunities to integrate learning backgrounds to explore rural health issues.

Thanks to the generous assistance from many folks in Grays Harbor County, the students enjoyed visits to Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma (Renée Jensen), Greater Grays Harbor (Tim Gibbs), and Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen (Tom Jensen.)  In addition, Joan Brewster, Director of the Grays Harbor County Health Department, hosted a lunch session that included local providers from the various health disciplines including a dentist, nurse, pharmacist, and public health officials.  Ki Shin, MD, a local physician and a regional dean at the University of Washington School of Medicine, met with the medical students.  The students concluded the day with self-directed tours of downtown Aberdeen where they were able to talk with the local citizens and business owners.  Lastly, we discussed local developments and politics with the mayors of Aberdeen (Bill Simpson) and Cosmopolis (Vickie Raines.)

One student said this about the field trip to Grays Harbor County:

• “The field trip helped make everything in class relevant in a way reading only approximates. By going to Aberdeen and discussing the community first we were set up to understand the interplay of politics and resources. Coupled with the speakers who were community leaders, I left with a better perspective of rural America and the forces that shape its direction and limitations.”

The University of Washington School of Medicine is committed to meeting the primary care work force needs of the WWAMI region. As such, the rural health course intends to continue to rely on community partnerships to demonstrate the diversity of opportunities that exist for students interested in rural health careers.

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Learn the Basics of Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Planning

Submitted by: Erika Henry
[email protected]

An event in Spokane this October will give healthcare providers the opportunity to learn some of the basics of emergency preparedness planning. The 3-hour event is hosted by the Washington Region 9 Healthcare Coalition and will feature an overview of business resiliency planning, the importance of engaging in community preparedness efforts, the role that each and every medical provider plays during an emergency, and the activities of healthcare coalitions.

Participants will receive a business resiliency workbook that will help their practice get started with the important work of emergency planning. They will also be invited and encouraged to engage with their local healthcare coalition.

The Washington Region 9 Healthcare Coalition serves the 10 counties of eastern Washington and assists members with emergency preparedness planning, training, and exercising to help increase our communities’ resiliency to disaster. Many of these activities also satisfy accreditation requirements.

To learn more about this event, visit the registration page at or email the Washington Region 9 Healthcare Coalition at [email protected].

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