After Brandi Demel recently read a news release from a Kansas non-profit organization, she wondered what all the fuss was about.
As the full-time registered nurse at Sunflower Diversified Services, Demel knows the program mentioned in the release continues to be successful locally. Sunflower, which serves people with developmental disabilities and delays, became involved in the program a year ago.
The recent news release from the Kansas Health Institute focused on perceived problems, while quoting representatives of private business and state officials, she said.
The story referred to a state program called Health Home, which is not to be confused with home-health services that have been available through some agencies for many years. The new program focuses on chronic mental illness, while offering a central point for monitoring health care – both mental and physical.
Sunflower’s version of the program is called Health Outreach.
“Our Health Outreach is quite successful,” Demel said. “And we are certainly not the only agency in the state that is doing well with it.”
Demel recently shared Sunflower’s success story when she was a panelist at the first statewide conference about the new program.
“My panel topic was ‘health promotion’ and I mentioned the resources we have found or created as part of Health Outreach,” Demel said. “Sunflower received a lot of compliments and I was later contacted by agencies that want Sunflower to mentor their nurses in the program.”
Health Outreach goals include reductions in unnecessary care, emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
“It is great to save money but we are not looking only at the dollars and cents,” Demel said. “We are looking at the impact it is making on individual lives.
“Our case managers are able to offer more supports than ever before through Health Outreach,” she added. “This is the reason they became case managers – to help individuals in their day-to-day lives.”
For example, a local woman who enrolled in Health Outreach almost a year ago was diagnosed with diabetes at the time.
“Now, she is off all but one dose of her insulin,” Demel reported. “This is what it’s all about. Yes, we had to work through some red tape and uncertainties. But we have learned the ins and outs, and make it work because people need it.
“I can tell you we have grown by leaps and bounds since we started,” she continued. “I don’t know of any program that is smooth sailing from day one.”
Demel also noted that a local woman, who was in danger of falling through the cracks, is getting the help she needs because of local teamwork. Sunflower and the Center for Counseling & Consultation are helping her receive necessary services.
“Again, this is what is supposed to happen,” the registered nurse said. “If we all work together, we can make a huge, huge difference in people’s lives.”
Demel acknowledged that sometimes there is confusion about which agency should be involved with a particular client. “We may unknowingly begin serving someone else’s client,” she said. “But Sunflower and other area providers are working together on this. If there is a mix-up, we get it straightened out.”
Those who could benefit from Health Outreach are automatically enrolled by managed care organizations. MCOs are the insurance companies involved in the KanCare system for low-income residents.
“Currently, people can opt out of the program,” Demel said. “And I hope it stays that way. If we go to an opt-in system, there will be fewer people getting the services they need.”
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. The non-profit agency is in its 49th year.