Indiana Rural Health Association recognized nationally for outstanding support in promoting rural health

Called a “proven champion of rural health,” IRHA recognized as national “Community Star” by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural He
alth (NOSORH).

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Recognizing its outstanding support to rural hospitals, clinics and others, the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA) was formally named a national “Community Star” by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) on November 21. The recognition was formally conferred on National Rural Health Day at the IRHA Rural Summit here.

NOSORH promotes National Rural Health Day (NRHD) on the third Thursday of November. Its focus is to “shine a light on those who serve the vital health needs of the estimated 57 million people living in rural America,” according to NOSORH. State Offices of Rural Health (SORH), including the Indiana State Office of Rural Health (InSORH), provide support to rural hospitals, clinics, and first responders in several ways, including technical assistance, funding that supports workforce development, population health management, quality improvement initiatives and more.

“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, InSORH Manager.

“IRHA is a proven collaborator in innovative approaches for helping to meet the needs of rural health providers, both in Indiana and nationally,” said Brock Slabach, senior vice president of the National Rural Health Association. “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.”

“IRHA’s success is driven by the outstanding commitment and focus of our professional staff,” said Don Kelso, IRHA executive director. “Our staff members work tirelessly to advance healthcare availability, secure funding for statewide training and program development, and promote best practices – this national recognition is about them as much as anything.”

NRHA’s Slabach agreed: “The entire team from Don to staff is simply superb in what they do to advance rural healthcare, both in the state of Indiana and elsewhere – they help keep rural hospitals viable and successful, wherever they are.”

The independent nomination for the national recognition outlined several major accomplishments of the Indiana organization:

Reducing infant mortality - The Indiana Rural Health Association is an active strategic partner represented on the Indiana Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative (IPQIC) in collaboration with the Indiana State Department of Health in its efforts to reduce infant mortality.  

Combating the Opioid Crisis in Indiana (particularly in rural areas) - IRHA has sponsored regional symposia with local partners and has established/funded formal means to combat the opioid crisis, including the Indiana Rural Opioid Consortium (InROC), which was established by IRHA in October 2017 with partners across the country. InROC and IRHA work together with professional partners and law enforcement officials to fight the opioid crisis in Indiana, which saw a staggering 86.9% increase in opioid overdose from 2010 to 2015. InROC is working towards building the necessary infrastructure to develop a regional model for Opioid-Use Disorder (OUD) identification, treatment, and recovery services in rural areas and the communities they serve. 

Healthcare workforce development, rural broadband and telehealth expansion – IRHA is strategically represented and an active partner on the Governor’s Health Workforce Committee and is positively recognized nationally by the National Governor’s Association from the work done by that committee related to healthcare workforce development.  Related to this is IRHA’s great continuing work with the state Office of Community and Rural Development (OCRA), which includes an active and statewide partnership on rural community economic development activity along with rural broadband and rural telehealth expansion (particularly in rural elementary schools through the IRHA-directed Indiana Rural Schools Clinic Network).

Responsive leadership for rural health issues – Through responsive and efficient leadership in the rural medical communities, the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA) consistently partners to great success with various programs and initiatives administered or supported by Indiana offices of rural health (Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and several of rural health-related state offices and agencies). A quick look through the IRHA website ( quickly reveals a rich variety of programs and initiatives that address multiple issues.

High standards for statewide service – IRHA sets a high bar for service in a variety of rural settings across Indiana, relentlessly contributing to the positive elevation of a vital and innovative rural health landscape and infrastructure at numerous levels, including county, city, township, state agency, and academic. Programs like the IRHA rural IT program or the current program to provide perinatal navigators (through the IRHA “Healthy Start Communities that C.A.R.E”) are but a few of the many successful programs that IRHA initiates and runs.

Statewide training to elevate quality of care and administration – IRHA staff trains (or contributes to the training and development of) rural health leadership at numerous levels and are often asked by other rural health associations in other states for advice and direction (which IRHA freely provides). Through innovative academic, community college, and other partnerships (including a unique multi-level collaborative roundtable network of rural hospital executives, administrators, and staff), IRHA directly builds critical capacity for rural data-driven program planning and decision-making.

Promoting data-driven program planning and execution – IRHA regularly institutes empirical data collection and analysis in its program outreach, which increases the efficiency of program administration and the development of best practices in rural administration and quality of care. IRHA is well-known for its persistent and tenacious commitment to positive disruptive innovation in rural health and is a proven champion (at many levels) of creating opportunities to advance relevant education, collaboration, and communication of established best practices and meaningful innovation in reaching and maintaining high standards of quality of care, patient safety, and extension of service availability in rural settings.

Continued focus on creation and adoption of innovation solutions, including conducting regular education forums throughout Indiana – IRHA is truly a transparent and collaborative organization that is quick to adopt, adapt, promote, and help implement innovative rural solutions that are widely recognized and adopted by other healthcare organizations and state rural health groups. IRHA conducts a number of major educational and collaborative forums throughout the state, and its annual June state conference (featuring national and regional experts on various aspects of rural healthcare) is considered a “must attend” event for professionals.

Rural communities, health organizations and schools are invited to learn more about the National Rural Health Day. More information is available at

Localized information about Indiana’s observance of National Rural Health Day and the IRHA Rural Summit on Nov. 21 (including a video) is available at:

About the Indiana Rural Health Association
The Indiana Rural Health Association was organized in 1997 and is a nonprofit organization working to enhance the health and well-being of rural populations in Indiana through leadership, education, advocacy, collaboration, and resource development. The strength of the organization is through the present diverse membership and the founding organizers who are committed to impacting the health of citizens through the identification of rural health issues and through advocacy roles in both the public and private sectors. IRHA membership is made up of 3,300 diverse individuals and organizations, making it the largest state rural health association in the nation, and a nationally recognized leader in rural health care. For more information, visit

Contact:   Don Kelso (812) 478-3919 e-mail:
                 Michael Snyder (317) 805-4870  e-mail:  Cell – 317-709-3560