IRHA honored for work

Posted by: Washington Dec 25, 2019

Lately, you may have associated the Indiana Rural Health Association with bringing telehealth to students at some Daviess County schools and while that’s one of the non-profit’s priorities, it’s by far not its only one.

Don Kelso, executive director of the Indiana Rural Health Association or IRHA, said the non-profit is focused on advancing health care around the state and that can take on several forms.

“We want to help improve the health and wellbeing of Hoosiers,” said Kelso, who resides in Washington. “That can be through clinics, hospitals. There are several ways we can do that. We help providers be successful.”

Kelso said that means the IRHA is sometimes the collaborator, sometimes the connector and sometimes the facilitator.

“We may not always know the best way to help, but there’s a really good chance that we know someone who does,” he said, of the organization that started in 1997 by a group of concerned citizens and now employs 29 people.

IRHA has helped fight infant mortality by bringing perinatal navigators on board in several counties including Daviess and Greene, thanks to a $4.5 million grant that provides confidential screenings, treatments and education for expecting mothers, infants and their families.

“So far, we’ve been able to reach around 300 mothers and 100 fathers,” said Kelso.

The nonprofit also has its hand in helping with the opioid crisis especially in rural areas.

“This is an issue everywhere,” said Kelso. “It’s not just in cities or rural areas. Opioids are an issue across the state.”

That’s why IRHA launched the Indiana Rural Opioid Consortium in 2017. The consortium works with IRHA and professional partners as well as law enforcement to help identify opioid-use disorder, find treatment and recovery services.

IRHA has also worked to expand rural broadband and health care workforce development and serves as an advocate for policy and laws that help improve health care to all Hoosiers.

It’s that focus on improving the health of Hoosiers that scored the Indiana Rural Health Association some recognition from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health as a Community Star winner.

“Given their successful partnerships with state agencies, school systems, rural hospitals and clinics, and Indiana policy makers to reduce infant mortality, help fund and open rural school telehealth clinics and setting high standards to document, share and promote relevant healthcare experience, the Indiana Rural Health Association is certainly deserving of this national recognition,” said Joyce M. Fillenwarth, Indiana State Office of Rural Health manager.

Brock Slabach, senior vice president of the National Rural Health Association called IRHA a proven collaborator.

“IRHA is a proven collaborator in innovative approaches for helping to meet the needs of rural health providers, both in Indiana and nationally. IRHA is a proven champion of rural health and has become a successful role model for other state rural health agencies and associations — their recognition as a national Community Star by NOSORH is well-deserved,” he said.

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