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Growing Wellness...Overcoming Obstacles

Hospital news | Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Contact: Thomas Hottman

Valerie Franklin, Outpatient Care Management program coordinator at Sky Lakes Medical Center, said the medical center and it's partners are expanding the Living Well program, which aims to help patients manage their chronic health conditions.

The Living Well Program - a free program in Klamath Falls dedicated to teaching skills to self-manage chronic conditions - continues to expand it's services through community collaboration and recent grant funding. The grant funds may provide additional promotional educational materials, facilitator licensing for classes in Spanish and help toward establishing a new Pain Management course for participants to learn how to deal with pain outside of using medication.

With Klamath County commissioners approving the grant funds, the Living Well Program will continue to grow especially after hiring a Sky Lakes Medical Center Outpatient Care Management program coordinator, Valerie Franklin, to help develop the program.

"The grant allowed us to move forward with a program coordinator and then it also allowed us to get a lot of training through the search institutes to come together as a group and make some decisions for our community and how we want to present these programs in a very organized fashion," Franklin told the Herald and News.

A portion of the funds will also go towards financial management, a health equity coordinator and a Cascade Health Alliance intern.

Curbing chronic conditions

The Living Well Program is a six-week workshop giving participants tools for living with chronic health conditions. Since 2015, community organizations have collaborated to bring the program, developed by Stanford University, to Klamath Falls.

Those organizations include Sky Lakes Medical Center, Klamath County Public Health, Klamath Tribal Health, Klamath and Lake Counties Council on Aging, Oregon State University Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center, the Klamath Basin Senior Center, ATRIO Health Plans, Quality Improvement Organization, HealthInSight, the Department of Human Services Aging and People with Disabilities, Cascade Health Alliance and SPOKES.

"You push all the borders out of the way because you have this one particular purpose which is to serve the community with these lprograms," Franklin said, "and we all come together with the same purpose."

Finding unity

However, the program didn't always have so many contributing community organizations.

The program started in 2006, headed by OSU Extension Office associate professor and program coordinator Patty Case.

Case said in 2011 the program was put on hold after difficulty in finding sustainable participation. Then in 2015, after health care reforms spurred interest in preventative care, the nationally known program for self management gained momentum resulting in the partnership between different entities in Klamath Falls.

"The program for self-management, for equipping people to become their own self-managers...that model keeps popping up as an important piece in a menu of options for people with chronic conditions," Case said. The Klamath Falls program has two workshops: Living Well with Chronic Conditions and Living Well with Diabetes. About 91 percent of participants felt confident in making a plan with goals to control their diabetes, according to a 2015 Diabetes workshop community data report.

"There is a definite need for this in this community," Franklin said. "We have a lot of chronic disease in Klamath Falls."

Staying away from the ER

In Oregon, Living Well programs have contributed to 553 avoided emergency room visits — saving $634,980 in health care expenses, according to a 2015 Oregon's Living Well with Chronic Conditions program impact report.

"One of the benefits of this program is that it teaches tools to help them better self manage some of the daily ongoing issues that they experience with the chronic conditions," Franklin said.

One of the key components to the self management programs is creating an action plan. The action plan can be as simple as getting a consistent medication plan in place, to walking to get the mail every day, Franklin said.

She added that when people finish the six weeks they often feel empowered, more in control of their own health and they've gained skills to work with physicians as well as to make daily choices that are better for their overall health.

"The grant has been instrumental in helping us really solidify (our) direction and also to formulate a promotional program that would be focused on the sustainability aspect of this," Franklin said. "We're hoping to get master trainers in our area, so that will be helping us to continue to do ongoing training to bring in new peer facilitators so the program can continue to grow."