News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Hospital creates Integrated Health/Outreach department

Santiam Hospital announces a new department, Integrated Health and Outreach, headed by Melissa Baurer.

“As an establishment, we are honored to be such a trusted resource to our community,” said Baurer, MA, whose role has expanded to incorporate Care Management, Community Health, and the Santiam Hospital & Clinics Foundation.

Baurer still will oversee the hospital’s Service Integration Teams and the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Disaster Services Program & Relief Fund.

“I am eager to be the point person of the department, to be sure that this connection thrives,” Baurer said. “From the inpatient hospital system to our clinics and outreach, this department will listen, guide and model a community-centered approach to healthcare and wraparound resource navigation.”

As director, Baurer will guide team members to support and collaborate programs rather than duplicate services. The new department will bring together multiple programs: Service Integration, Disaster Services, Community Health Workers (CHWs) and hospital-based Care Managers.

“We understand that a person’s well-being cannot be compartmentalized,” Baurer said. “This is the first step to bridging the many facets of healthcare. Service Integration and Disaster Services are the eyes and ears of our community, the CHW team bridges community health to clinic healthcare and the Care Managers serve our community members while they are in the hospital. Each program serves a specific purpose and Integrated Health and Outreach coordinates to ensure we are responsive to the patient and community needs.”

Baurer looks forward to seeing which areas of the hospital and its clinics can benefit from the new department, addressing patient needs such as housing, transportation, food and other needs.

“We know that when a person has a home to live in, adequate food, means to getting their prescriptions, they are more able to attend their primary care appointments resulting in less hospital readmissions as well,” she said. “An area of focus for me is and always will be community resiliency.”

With the addition of the new department, a community member who enters through one program will now have an immediate connection to all resources and services across the department and service integration teams.

“This creates a more seamless approach across the continuum of care resulting in the improved health and wellbeing of our community,” Baurer said.

The first step in implementing the department, she said, was to engage strong team leaders who could lead with “integrity and innovation.” 

Team members include: Tanni Swisher, overseeing Disaster Services, Kim Klotz, managing Community Health, and Kim Dwyer facilitating the three SI Teams.

“The next step is announcing and introducing the department to our peers and to the community,” Baurer said. “Within the department, we will have introductory meetings and establish a common purpose and workflow. We will listen to the wants and needs of our community and outline goals and methods to address them.”

Baurer said many aspects of the department are limited by general staffing and financial barriers. She said addressing these barriers will help to stabilize infrastructure and allow for expansion of services.

“Service Integration would like to continue its remarkable success and connection with community partners,” said Baurer. “We look forward to returning to meeting in person in September with our three teams and will be announcing a fourth team in August.”

According to Baurer, Disaster Case Management will continue to focus on the recovery needs of the Santiam Canyon with an emphasis on establishing forward-thinking practices and protocols for disaster preparedness and prevention.

“Community Health Workers look forward to expanding services to more clinics and departments within the hospital, working closely with the Behavioral Health team and to possibly add community health and wellness classes and events,” she said. “Care Management will likely expand its reach to incorporate more service departments, which may include working more closely with dietary/nutrition and our lactation/birth consultants as examples.”

Baurer said the healthcare system is often challenging for the community to navigate.

“Many times, [it’s] too difficult for a patient to do on their own and when they don’t have the support system at home to assist, they need the hospital and clinics to help,” she added.

Prior to recently hiring community health workers, she said hospital staff had to step up and fill in the gap. With this new department, clinicians will be able to focus on caring for patients, she added.

“The need in the canyon area is great,” Baurer said. “We still have 298 households who need to get back home after they lost everything in the fire. The three new community health workers served 384 households in just five months. Some needed housing, some needed counseling services, others needed help getting to their medical appointments.

“It is not OK that we live in a time right now where patients have to decide will they buy groceries or pay for their prescriptions or will they attend their cancer treatments or pay rent,” she added. “Inflation has made accessing healthcare more challenging. The time for this new department is now!”

Baurer said department staff will problem-solve together to find solutions for community residents to have the basic human right of safe housing and access to healthcare.

“I am proud of the work done so far by all the programs,” Baurer said. “I look to the future to blend these programs and embrace the service integration model.”

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