What I’m working on right now: What am I not working on? An RFP to get USAC subsidies to our public health nursing offices, develop MCH genetics clinics via telehealth, contract for our weeklong summer health career camps at the University of Wyoming…lots of fun stuff!
What I’m currently reading: The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and Our Energy Future
Favorite thing about working at a SORH: Making the best friends in other SORHs!
Best advice I ever received: “Give ’em hell” from my Dad. I was in college and missed home and would call him. He’s always end the conversation with “give ’em hell”, meaning I’m capable of anything. Thanks, Dad!
Last place I traveled to: San Diego for NRHA annual meeting. Tagged on a couple of vacation
3 great things about rural health in Wyoming: We have some great minds working on new initiatives for access with telehealth; staff from four Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) are attending
the Western Regional Flex Conference with our Flex Coordinator and will bring back a plan to share with other CAHs; and Wyoming is one of five states that have been invited to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Challenges and Innovations in Rural Health Policy, which brings together rural health experts and legislators to improve access to care in rural areas.
Flex and SHIP Program Manager, Wyoming Office of Rural Health
How did you get to where you are now?
My background is in higher education and I felt like I needed a change. When my youngest child graduated from college, I decided that was the time. I moved from South Dakota to Wyoming, not knowing a soul. I took a position at the Office of Rural Health and Sharla has been a great mentor over the years. I consider this an adventure and I love learning all that I can about rural health.
What inspires you and excites you most about working for a SORH?
The people. The people in small communities wear so many different hats and they are a wealth of knowledge. I love to meet with new partners and stakeholders. When you put names and faces together, you make a better connection for both sides.
What is the biggest challenge facing SORH leaders today?
There is a constant struggle to do more with less. We are working with stakeholders on prioritization to help them stay afloat. Wyoming did not expand Medicaid, so it is important for us to work with our providers to help them remain viable and maintain access to care in these communities.
What is the most important thing you are working on right now?
Right now, I am learning how to input data into the Cart tool and looking at population health data. However, when the Flex grant comes out next month that will be the most important thing I am working on.
What do you do to unplug (and unwind)?
I love the sun. Anytime there is any sun, I am outside – even in windy Wyoming. I like to garden, hike, ride bikes, and be with family. This year, I want to take more classes at the local community college.
In July 2015, the Wyoming Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health (ORH), through the Wyoming Telehealth Network (WyTN), began offering telehealth technical assistance grants with the goal of connecting rural Wyoming facilities to telehealth services. Grantees represent public health nursing, physical rehabilitation, behavioral health centers, private practice physicians, community health centers, prevention programs, rural health clinics, and hospitals.
ORH currently contracts with Ptolemy Data Systems to work directly with sites to assure connectivity. Instead of giving funds directly to the grantees, ORH compensates Ptolemy for each successful connection.
“The technology available in healthcare today has vastly improved the ability for providers to deliver critical care in an expedient and precise manner”, said Jesus Rios, Chief Operating Officer at Ptolemy Data Services. “It is critical that telehealth options be available to all healthcare providers – but especially those serving rural populations. The WyTN has provided exceptional access to providers and patients in rural communities.”
In less than a year, 18 grants have been awarded throughout the state and the project continues to grow. Casper Children’s Center (CCC) in Casper, WY, was one of the first grantees. The mission of CCC is to advance and improve child health in Wyoming, and the WyTN has been an important component in furthering this goal.
“CCC was fortunate to receive support to join the WyTN,” said Dr. Shelley Springer, CCC neonatologist. “Having telehealth available has allowed CCC to offer pediatric consultation services to providers in rural Wyoming who may desire pediatric consultative support, and to extend the reach of Wyoming’s only board certified neonatologist to providers around the state who offer obstetric/neonatal services.”
Beginning July 2016, the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND), College of Health Sciences at the University of Wyoming will assume responsibility for coordinating the WyTN. WIND will assist providers as they transition from the traditional bridge systems to cloud-based, videoconferencing platforms. This transition will allow for increased flexibility of telehealth service to support providers and patients throughout Wyoming. WIND will create a website, develop educational materials, and provide monthly videoconference learning sessions to assist providers and professionals in developing and implementing best practices in telehealth. WIND will also track statewide usage of the network in order to target future outreach and growth, and to increase access to quality health care. WIND is excited about the opportunity to coordinate the WyTN and work with patients and providers across Wyoming.
The WyTN is supported by Wyoming state general funds. To learn more about the WyTN, please contact Sharla Allen, Wyoming ORH Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does your SORH have a “Promising Practice”? We’re interested in the innovative, effective and valuable work that SORHs are doing. Contact Ashley Muninger at email@example.com to set up a short email or phone interview in which you can tell your story.
Sharla Allen, MSHA, has been the Manager of the Wyoming Office of Rural Health (ORH) since July 2007. She is a Region E representative and chair of the NOSORH Awards Committee. Sharla has spent 30 years working in rural and reproductive health, and previously held positions in Wyoming’s 3RNet member organization as Recruiter and Executive Director.
What are some of the positive things going on in your state with rural health?
A great thing about rural health in Wyoming is that it is all encompassing. Seventeen of our 23 counties are defined as frontier, four are considered rural, and in the two metropolitan counties, once you’re out of the city, you are miles from any other community or services. It’s not difficult to sell rural to policymakers!
In 2012, our SORH Grant supported registration fees for Wyoming Department of Health and Community Based Health and Social Service Agency staff to attend a federal grant management course offered by Grant Writing USA. It was eye-opening to learn what we didn’t know we were supposed to know–and I’ve been here six years! We are more confident now with our compliance with grant agreements and with possible federal audits. The training was so well received that our fiscal leadership required training for all fiscal staff who deal with federal grants, and the Public Health Division now requires all staff to attend this training. We added the training into the current SORH grant, again targeting the staff in those agencies, and added a grant writing class this year.
Also, in 2011, the state legislature passed the Primary Care Support Act, which provided a million dollars to support existing CHCs or RHCs to expand services and/or their market, or start-up costs for new RHCs or CHCs. Awards were made in 2013 and we had four awardees, including one potential new clinic. It’s a one-time deal–but it’s a big deal for our Office.
Finally, for 2014 and beyond, we are excited about resource projects that are collaborative population health and primary care initiatives. Making that linkage is key to preventative health aswell as cost containment for any health system. We see this path as one that will have long-lasting effects on our rural communities’ health.
Is there a particularly difficult challenge that you faced in the recent past? If so, how did you
Due to staffing changes and reorganization over the last year and a half, our SORH staff was only able to meet the basic requirements of both federally and state funded programs. Now with great support from senior administration, we’ve successfully hired a unit manager and realigned SORH staff so that we can again grow our programs rather than meet the minimum requirements.