Ludwig Community Benefit Award Honors Hospital Programs

The MHA announced the winners of its 2022 Ludwig Community Benefit Award during the association’s Annual Membership Meeting June 30. The honorees include programs supported by Ascension Michigan, Warren; Spectrum Health Lakeland, Saint Joseph; McLaren Bay Region, Bay City; and Chelsea Hospital. The award is named in memory of Patric E. Ludwig, a former MHA president who championed investing in the community’s overall health, and is presented to member organizations integrally involved in collaborative programs to improve the health and well-being of area residents. Each winner will receive $5,000 from the MHA Health Foundation to assist in its health improvement efforts.

Dr. Kenneth Coleman receives the Ludwig Award on behalf of Ascension Michigan School-Based Health Centers.
Dr. Kenneth Coleman receives the Ludwig Award on behalf of Ascension Michigan School-Based Health Centers.

Ascension Michigan School-Based Health Centers are an initiative of Ascension Southeast Michigan Community Health, committed to improving the quality of life in the communities the health system serves. Since 1996, the program has developed mental health and medical plans for each of its 29 centers, with funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the school districts where clinics are located.

With the increased need for children’s mental health services caused by the pandemic, the health centers set a goal to provide mental health services to students transitioning from in-person instruction to remote learning. The health centers expanded telepsychiatry services to maximize access to care and applied for additional state funding to add service sites.

The School-Based Health Centers collaborate with several Ascension Michigan programs and community organizations to address severe mental health issues, substance use disorders, violence, grief, environmental or safety problems, and more.

The Ascension Michigan School-Based Health Centers will use its cash award to address the stigma attached to using mental health services through schoolwide educational activities and youth-produced videos.

For more information on the Ascension Michigan School-Based Health Centers, contact Kenneth Coleman, LPC, PhD, director, community health, at Ascension Michigan at (248) 849-5715.

Greg Lane, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, McLaren Health Care, receives the Ludwig Award on behalf of McLaren Bay Region and its foundation opened the Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic.
Greg Lane, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, McLaren Health Care, receives the Ludwig Award on behalf of McLaren Bay Region and its foundation, which opened the Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic.

McLaren Bay Region and its foundation opened the Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic in March 2004. The clinic serves the primary healthcare needs of disadvantaged residents in Bay and surrounding counties, connecting them with basic health resources through education, prevention and treatment.

The clinic operates Wednesdays from 4 p.m. until the last patient is seen. Three part-time employees oversee clinic operations and patient needs, arranging referrals, prescription assistance, volunteer scheduling and more. More than 175 volunteers, including licensed professionals and lay volunteers, provide more than 2,000 hours of service each year.

From March 2004 through September 2021, the Nickless Clinic provided care to 9,275 individuals during 31,568 visits. When asked where they would have sought care without the clinic, 65% of new patients said they would have forgone care and 20% indicated the emergency room.

The clinic is financed through an endowment fund and annual grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as by annual donations from the community. The money from the Ludwig Award will be used to assist in patients’ prescription medication costs.

For more information on the Helen M. Nickless Volunteer Clinic, contact Lynn Weaver, vice president, philanthropy, McLaren Bay Medical Foundation, at (989) 895-4728.

Lynn Todman, vice president of health equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland
Lynn Todman, vice president of health equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland, receives the Ludwig Award.

Spectrum Health Lakeland established the Center for Better Health in downtown Benton Harbor in November 2020 as a two-month rapid response to COVID-19-related health inequities. Eighty-five percent of Benton Harbor residents are African American, nearly half live in poverty, and many experience conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and pre-term and low birth-weight babies.

The disparate impact of the pandemic on Benton Harbor residents and findings from recent Community Health Needs Assessments highlighted the need for increased access to healthcare services. Spectrum Health Lakeland responded with additional resources to support the center’s operations and expansion. It is moving from its current 1,200 square foot facility to a 30,000 square foot building donated by the Whirlpool Corporation. Since its opening, more than 2,500 individuals have used the center to conveniently access culturally customized healthcare.

The Ludwig Award will fund a health equity leadership development program designed to prepare community members and hospital staff to effectively collaborate in strengthening Lakeland’s ability to meet the healthcare and social needs of the residents of Benton Harbor and other underserved communities in its service area.

For more information about the Center for Better Health, contact Lynn Todman, vice president of health equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland, at (269) 208-2254.

Rob Casalou receives the Ludwig Award on behalf of Chelsea Hospital and the WAVE Stockbridge-Manchester Shuttle.
Rob Casalou receives the Ludwig Award on behalf of Chelsea Hospital and the WAVE Stockbridge-Manchester Shuttle.

Chelsea Hospital, a joint venture hospital, whose partners are Trinity Health Michigan and University of Michigan Health, spearheaded development of the WAVE Stockbridge-Manchester Shuttle to address a need recognized through the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment, which identified social isolation as a high priority need and lack of transportation as a risk factor in Stockbridge and Manchester. These towns had no public transportation options, are among the most financially vulnerable communities in the area, and had recently lost vital businesses.

Chelsea Hospital partnered with the nonprofit Western Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE) to create routes between these towns and services in Chelsea. The hospital and community leaders worked to ensure the free transportation was available to those who most needed it to build social connections and reduce barriers to employment, education, food access and healthcare.

Chelsea Hospital underwrote initial costs for the WAVE bus to connect the three towns, and Michigan Department of Transportation funding allows it to continue. Between August 2020 and January 2022, the shuttle provided 1,005 rides, more than two-thirds of them to disabled riders.

The Ludwig Award funds will ensure widespread awareness of this service. For more information on the WAVE Stockbridge-Manchester Shuttle, contact Reiley Curran, Chelsea Hospital community health improvement manager, at (734) 593-6269.

To learn more about the MHA’s annual Ludwig Community Benefit Award, contact Erin Steward at the MHA.

CEO Report – The Road Ahead on COVID-19 Vaccine

MHA Rounds Report - Brian Peters, MHA CEO

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

MHA CEO Brian PetersThe long-awaited game-changer in the fight against COVID-19 arrived last December when emergency use authorizations were granted for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. As we begin Black History Month, I’m very pleased to share that Michigan hospitals have now administered more than half a million COVID-19 vaccine doses, representing well over half of the state’s total, according to data provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. In short, hospitals have played a vital role throughout this pandemic, and now they are leading the way delivering COVID-19 vaccine to our communities.

It was predictable that, in the early stages of this process, demand would far outpace supply, and that has certainly been the case here. Equally predictable was the complexity — and resulting operational and communication challenges — that accompany a rollout of such unprecedented scale. I am proud of the MHA’s efforts on this front and am pleased that our own Ruthanne Sudderth, MHA senior vice president of public affairs and communications, has just been appointed to Gov. Whitmer’s bipartisan Protect Michigan Commission, which will serve as yet another avenue to provide input and guidance to the state’s ongoing vaccination campaign. MHA Chair-elect Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, was also appointed as a co-chair of this new body.

Last month’s CEO Report focused on the theme of optimism, and I am going to take an optimistic view here: despite the obvious hurdles that we are still confronting daily, we will reach a point in the not-too-distant future when supply will catch up to demand. That is a good thing. But what happens next is a real concern — when supply actually exceeds demand, precisely because of a phenomenon with which any experienced healthcare provider or executive is familiar: vaccine hesitancy.

Recently, the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative shared the results of research they conducted on vaccine hesitancy among Americans, which identified three key drivers of hesitancy.

  1. Concerns about safety and side effects from COVID-19 vaccination, driven by the speed of the clinical development process and the vaccines’ novelty.
  2. Lack of knowledge.
  3. Distrust in the political and economic motives of the government and corporations.

Their research also specifically identified high levels of hesitancy among African Americans, due to historical unethical practices in medical research and healthcare inequities, and Hispanics, due to a lack of confidence in the information they’ve received. These insights are evidence that we must do better to meet our goal of reaching herd immunity in 2021.

Across our country and state, healthcare professionals are stepping up to build that requisite trust. Social media feeds have been filled by front-line workers sharing their experience receiving the vaccine, such as Spectrum Health Lakeland Security Officer Kenney Booth sharing that his motivation behind being vaccinated was the ability to see his grandchildren. Each post, photo and video like Kenney’s helps move the needle.

Vaccine hesitancy among people of color is also aided by learning about Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a National Institutes of Health research fellow leading vaccine development, who was instrumental in providing the key ingredient for the Moderna vaccine. And then there are individuals like Herbert C. Smitherman Jr., vice dean and professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine/Detroit Medical Center, who both raised attention around vaccine hesitancy and used his experience as a Black physician in Detroit to explain why communities of color need to be vaccinated in an op-ed from Bridge. A personal side note: Dr. Smitherman was my classmate and friend at the University of Michigan School of Public Health many years ago and, without question, was one of the class stars.

It also helps to explain how these vaccines were able to be developed in a quicker manner than in the past. As the leader of a healthcare advocacy organization, two of the largest barriers we encounter are bureaucratic red tape and funding. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available today because bureaucratic hurdles that have no impact on the safety or efficacy of the vaccine were removed and all necessary funding was provided. No corners were cut that would jeopardize the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, and each vaccine was properly reviewed and vetted by health and medical experts and authorized by the FDA based on clinical testing.

Finally on this issue, we have partnered closely with the state of Michigan throughout the pandemic. In late January, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services launched a statewide paid media campaign to inform Michiganders about the COVID-19 vaccine. As Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health (and herself a Black physician), said: “We want all Michiganders to get the facts about this safe and effective vaccine and the steps that were taken to develop it. I am grateful and proud to have gotten both doses of my vaccine and I urge Michiganders to make a plan and get vaccinated when it is their turn. This is the way forward out of the pandemic and our chance to return to a sense of normalcy.”

While we need to address vaccine hesitancy and administer COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible to slow the spread of the disease, we also need to do so in an equitable manner to eliminate barriers that can prevent different audiences, including communities of color, from receiving the vaccine.

This can be specifically addressed for COVID-19 by how vaccine is allocated and the outreach conducted by providers to ensure vaccine access for everyone. However, more can be done to address health disparities that have contributed to COVID-19 impacting communities of color at disproportionally higher rates. This is why the MHA’s ongoing efforts to address health disparities and to achieve health equity is so important. I can promise that we are deeply committed to this important work.

During Black History Month, let us take this opportunity to not only reflect on those influential Black leaders of the past, but salute and empower those leaders across our state and nation who are currently going to great lengths to ensure health equity for all — including equity in our COVID-19 vaccine efforts.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.