UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A community health advocate, a community mental health center, a Penn State distinguished professor, a chiropractor and a critical access hospital were the recipients of the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health's (PORH’s) 2012 Pennsylvania Rural Health Awards. The award winners were honored at a luncheon ceremony during The Power of Rural: Celebrating Rural Health in Pennsylvania conference held to commemorate the second annual National Rural Health Day on Nov. 15.
Sullivan County resident Joan Gruver received the 2012 Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award for her dedicated efforts to improve health care services in the county. Gruver was part of the team that established a volunteer dental clinic in the county and was responsible for founding the Sullivan County Health Partnership, which has since merged with Sullivan County Action. She also started the Sullivan County Health Fair, which is heavily attended each year by residents from Sullivan and surrounding counties. Gruver was lauded for being a "mover and shaker who has been a true gem to this rural Pennsylvania county."
The Clearfield-Jefferson Community Mental Health Center (CJ-CMHC) received the 2012 Rural Health Program of the Year Award. The award recognized CJ-CMHC, an outpatient behavioral health organization providing care to the persistently mentally ill population in Clearfield and Jefferson counties, for its reverse co-location integrated care program. Through this model, a primary care clinician from the DuBois Regional Medical Center and a pharmacy staff person from Genoa Healthcare are located in CJ-CMHC's DuBois facility, thereby allowing all of the organizations to provide better coordinated physical and behavioral health services that increase consumer lifespan and reduce health care costs. CJ-CMHC is one of the first rural behavioral health centers in Pennsylvania to initiate this integrated model of physical and behavioral care.
Michael Hecht, distinguished professor in Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State, received the 2012 State Rural Health Leader of the Year Award. Hecht leads a drug prevention project "keepin' it REAL (Refuse, Explain, Avoid, Leave)," a multicultural middle-school drug prevention program that aims to reduce alcohol, marijuana and tobacco use in youth. The program teaches youth to think critically and communicate effectively through interactive lessons that cover risk assessment, decision making, conflict resolution and communication skills. The program, recognized by the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices as an evidence-based program, is a kid-centric program that youth respond to because it is "from kids, to kids, through kids" and has been proven to be effective in lowering levels of drug use. Under Hecht's guidance, "keepin' it REAL" has been adapted for use in rural settings and is the first of its kind to emphasize themes that are culturally relevant for rural youth. All versions of the program are available through Penn State and D.A.R.E. America.
Penny Miles received the Rural Health Hero of the Year Award. Miles, a chiropractor practicing in Belleville, Mifflin County, was honored for her dedication to her patients and the communities in which she practices and lives. Miles goes the "extra mile" to organize her practice so that the can meet the health needs of her patients in the most accommodating way. She and her family, which includes two sons, are heavily involved in activities in their home community of Julian (Centre County), about 30 miles from Belleville.
Charles Cole Memorial Hospital in Coudersport, Potter County, received the Louis A. Ditzel Jr. Award for Quality Improvement in Rural Health. Charles Cole was recognized for being named one of the nation's Top Performers on Key Quality Measures by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, making it one of just 18 percent of more than 3,400 accredited hospitals in the United States to earn this distinction for attaining excellence in accountability measure performance. The hospital was also one of only six teams selected to present at the National Rural Health Association's Rural Quality Clinical Conference in July 2012 for its work in care transitions and hospital readmissions. The award was accepted by hospital President and CEO Ed Pitchford and Cindi Hardesty, chief nurse executive.
PORH was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live. The organization presents these awards each year to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. National Rural Health Day is coordinated by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, which was established to help the nation's 50 State Offices of Rural Health in their efforts to improve access to and enhance the quality of health care for America's 61 million rural citizens.