Healthcare ranks at the forefront of the many important issues that the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners deals with during their bi-weekly meeting. This week, representatives from Southern Prairie Community Care (SPCC) gave a presentation to the board outlining their work and the state of rural healthcare in Southwestern Minnesota.

Executive Director William C. Muenchow and Medical Director Dr. Norris Anderson spent time Tuesday morning talking about how their organization works to improve the quality and access to affordable health services, particularly among economically disadvantaged residents. SPCC covers a 12 county region, works with 27 partnering agencies, and boasts approximately 27,000 attributed members.

According to Muenchow, there are three primary areas of concentration; community based care coordination, health informatics, and population health improvement. A major component of their work is coordinating between clients and health care providers and facilitating the transfer of information across systems. SPCC is guided by a philosophy that prioritizes equity over equality, and stresses that individuals might require different resources and services based on their own needs and socio-economic background.

Dr. Anderson explained to the board that the SPCC considers the social context that goes into predicting health statistics. For example, he said that things like income, access to transportation, and health education had a bigger impact on individual health than the quality of your doctor. Muenchow described the health care system as “complex” and said that it was the role of the SPCC to help clients navigate successfully.

The SPCC also dedicates a great deal of time working on mental health related issues, which they say is increasingly a major preoccupation for health care providers in the region and across the country. They also work with problems on much smaller scale, such as finding ways to make sure that clients without health education properly take their prescribed medication.

Looking ahead to 2018, Muenchow said the SPCC will work to expand in-house services, which he added was desperately needed by several key demographic groups including the elderly and disabled.

They will also work to strengthen their local partnerships while enhancing state-wide visibility. “We’re working together to make this happen, and we’re hoping that 2018 is our big year,” said Dr. Anderson. The board thanked the two for their presentation and the work they do in the region.

In other news:

The new Finance Manager Lacey Rigge was introduced to the board. Rigge is replacing Michelle May, who recently assumed the Auditor/Treasurer position with Chippewa County. Rigge is from the region and previously worked with Cargill. Rigge is slowly getting to know other department heads at the county. She says that she and her husband are excited to relocate to Granite Falls.

Sheriff Bill Flaten also spoke with board members about possibly installing cameras in various locations throughout the county. The question of new security cameras stems from a series of recent break-ins at the abandoned school building in Clarkfield which remain unsolved. Flaten told the board about his own home camera, which he says is wirelessly connected to his phone and alerts him whenever there is movement. Several months ago, the camera notified him of a home robbery while he was at work.

He also compared his system with cameras currently used by the Sheriff’s office, stressing that there were many different systems to choose from. Because of the remote nature of the locations in question (and the lack of power at the Clarkfield school building), the camera will require batteries. The Board voted unanimously to purchase the new equipment.

County Engineer Andy Sander was present to answer questions about the 2018 Corridors of Commerce program -- a Minnesota transportation grant that will award $400 million to specially selected projects across the state. Yellow Medicine already submitted an application, and Sander was asking the Board for a formal Letter of Support to give their application added weight. The Board expressed unanimous approval for the request, and will issue a formal letter at their next meeting on March 27.