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SIU Work Group to Explore Rural Care Needs, Coordination

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SIU School of Medicine has 23 clinics and health service facilities in a 40,000 square mile expanse. It’s a distinctly rural area with more than 2.5 million people living in small urban areas, towns and farms. The SIU System Board of Trustees wants to develop a coordinated plan to unify the health services within this region and provide better rural health care to its residents. Its long-term goal is to position SIU as the nation’s leader in rural health care assessment, education and delivery.

To aid the effort, a Rural Healthcare Work Group has been established to gather information and make recommendations to Dr. Dan Mahony, the new SIU System president. Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean and provost at SIU School of Medicine, is spearheading the group’s work as it gets underway.

The initial tasks include creating a detailed inventory of the current programs and activities related to rural health care within the SIU System. The school’s network of clinics, providers and programs is vast, and has expanded in the past decade to include studies on cancer disparities, opioid use, childhood development and other factors to improve the health of the region’s populations.

“The second goal is more challenging – but potentially more fun,” says Kruse. The group members are asked to be creative, and to consider what’s missing from the rural health care mix SIU provides. “What new cutting-edge activities could we offer if given the opportunity?” he asked. One example cited: A state lawmaker has suggested mental health care services be available within public schools, supported by Medicaid payments.

Group members may also consider organizational structures for the SIU System to facilitate the Board’s vision for rural health as the work proceeds. Meetings will take place throughout 2020 to build out these plans.

FAIR VALUE: Beginning in 1979, downstate Illinois health and community leaders met at the Doctors Fair to talk with SIU learners about establishing a practice in Illinois. For more than 25 years the fair attracted representatives from 40+ communities and 100+ students and residents.

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