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Area Ladders to Leaders participants present final projects developed during 18-month training program

By Mike Sherry, for KHI News Service, July 23, 2012

What if the Kansas City-area had:

  • Outreach for case managers and counselors overwhelmed by the stress of their jobs?
  • A process that allowed doctors’ offices to flag nonmedical issues affecting a patient’s health, such as a moldy home aggravating asthma?
  • Low-cost home delivery of groceries that emphasized healthy eating for needy residents?
  • A web portal that provided one-stop shopping for available social services?
  • Better coordination between inpatient and outpatient services for troubled youth?

Those aren’t just hypothetical questions for some emerging nonprofit leaders within the community.

The 29 mid-career professionals spent the past 18 months developing those ideas as one of eight groups around the country that participated in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s $3.6 million Ladder to Leadership Program.

Along the way, the 24 women and five men learned management strategies through the Center for Creative Leadership. One participant said she’d already used a technique to solve a workplace personnel issue.

The participants even managed to work in a “flash mob” dance routine before their training was complete.

The group’s five “action learning teams” fleshed out their plans at a daylong session held last Wednesday at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center.

Project Transformation
The team developed a four-session training module for staff members and supervisors around the issue of secondary trauma, when the pressures of assisting troubled clients can leave social workers feeling helpless and despondent.

Part of the training involved relaxation and health tips, and team member Julia Westhoff took the advice to heart to alleviate chronic pain she had been experiencing.

“I’m living proof of what learning about this issue can really be about,” said Westhoff, director of community education for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.

Social RX Network
The team announced Wednesday that it had established a pilot project with the JayDoc Free Clinic, a Kansas City, Kan., office staffed by students at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Upon intake, staff members plan to assess environmental factors that might be causing their patients’ health problems. The clinic would then refer them for help at social service agencies.

This type of experience also should help produce more well-rounded physicians, said clinic board member Ben Quick, a second-year medical student.

Free KC
This group worked with the Hy-Vee grocery store in Mission, Kan., to adapt the store’s online ordering and home-delivery service for a low-income population. They ran a pilot in northeast Kansas City, Kan.

Members said tours of the store were a great benefit to the residents, but even the reduced delivery charge of $12 remained a barrier for some people.

The group has applied to the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County for funding that would pay the delivery fee for a group of families for six months so it can continue the pilot.

That stands for Community Health and Resource Group, and group members described it as a type of Angie’s List for the nonprofit sector.

They demonstrated how a resident interested in gaining more education could drill down through the website to find GED programs near their home.

Team members said a funder has already expressed interest in providing a grant.

Patient GPS
The group identified a need for better handoffs between crisis facilities and the community providers that manage the follow-up appointments and longer-term care for youths with mental health needs.

Group members worked with Crittenton Children’s Center, which includes a psychiatric hospital, and Truman Medical Centers’ behavioral health staff.

Members said they came to understand why longtime practitioners had been unable to address this need: Staff workers cannot carve out the administrative time to discuss the issue.

“Just getting them to the table would be a huge success,” said Katie Cronin, director of the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic at KU Med.

As for the flash mob, that came at the Center for Creative Leadership’s offices in Greensboro, N.C. The fellows performed a surprise lunchtime dance routine to the 1980s smash hit “Jessie’s Girl.”

Such a performance had not been on her life’s to-do list, said fellow Nicole Morrow, public health and evaluation coordinator for the Kansas City Urban Youth Center.

But, she told the audience, the personality evaluations that were part of the program had pegged her as organized and methodical.

So, she said, “I just put it on there, and I’m going to cross it off.”

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City is proud to partner with the Kansas Health Institute news service to provide weekly health stories about health and policy issues impacting the greater Kansas City region. This News Service is an editorially independent program of the Kansas Health Institute and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and is committed to objective coverage of health issues.


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Health News


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