Compass CEO: Behind the Scenes with Senator Bernie Sanders

By Summer Kirby, CEO Compass Community Health

On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, I was honored to receive an invitation to meet and speak with Senator Bernie Sanders who was invited to come here to hear about some of the issues we are facing together. Organizers worked hard to coordinate with the Senator’s staff, so that many representatives from our community would have a chance to speak.

After arriving at the Vern Riffe Center on the campus of Shawnee State University, and being introduced to the panelists, it was clear the atmosphere was filled with excitement. This event created an opportunity to hear real life experiences from real people that were there to advocate and educate on behalf of our community with one of our nationally elected, political leaders.

Each panelist shared their account of specific topics, including one father’s personal story of caring for a special needs child, another speaker was a behavioral health counselor who works with the addicted population, there was a union leader who talked about the value of work to a person’s self esteem and more. Senator Sanders embraced all of the speakers and topics, added his views, and opened up the discussion to those in the audience who also had a chance for their voice to be heard. I was asked to speak on the topic of Health care, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the opiate epidemic. Below is the text of the healthcare story I shared with my community that day.

#CompassCares #CompassAdvocates

Summer Toni Dengel close up

I am a native resident. After graduating from Notre Dame High School, I moved to Columbus and completed my undergraduate degree while working full-time as a college student. My husband and I came home to Scioto County from the Dayton area where I worked for Wells Fargo, and we had our first child. Now, our family and home is back here in Portsmouth. After spending 15+ years in the financial industry and volunteering in various organizations in our community, my path transitioned to Compass Community Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center, where we are bound by federal statute and our guiding mission to care for all patients, regardless of their insurance status.   

My understanding and perspectives have changed. 

Healthcare issues, specifically the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the opiate epidemic and substance abuse, are commonly misunderstood topics. The importance of these issues extend beyond party lines and impact all constituents, regardless of one’s education, upbringing or religion. Medicaid expansion was, is, and continues to be, a significantly positive impact in communities all across Ohio and the United States. While we may be at the center of the opiate epidemic, we are not unlike other communities across the nation.    

Medicaid expansion enables access to care for services like primary care, mental health, addiction treatment recovery and general healthcare needs. It is common practice to connect with individuals who have not been able to access these services for core health needs, some results included an inability to maintain employment, addiction, and overusing emergency rooms and urgent care facilities to serve as a primary care provider. In my daily work, I see improvements in health outcomes due to the ACA and the commitment to Medicaid expansion. 

Some highlights include:

  • 1,100 men, in their mid-twenties, were able to access treatment services with The Counseling Center, a 35+ year alcohol and drug treatment agency serving residents from many Ohio counties.
  • That same organization celebrated 245 births for recovery babies (born to mothers in recovery).
  • One provider speaks of his patient finding herself unemployed for the first time in her life as a result of the economic downturn. As a diabetic that lost her coverage, she found herself in the ER due to lack of access to medical needs.  She was able to regain access through Medicaid expansion and is now reporting her diabetes is controlled.
  • Employed individuals working in entry level positions also have access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion.    

Cost, economic impact and sustainability of the program are core components of this discussion. One of the points commonly overlooked is the economic engine this program creates.

  • Medicaid expansion enabled my organization to hire additional providers, expand care for primary, mental health and women’s health as well as supplemental clinical and support staff.
  • The organization previously noted, The Counseling Center, added 67 jobs equating to $2.3 million in additional payroll.

These are but a few examples of investments; dollars that support our economy, goods being purchased, individuals seeking higher education and overall enhancements to the good health of the community. 

Simply put, it’s a complex equation. The real impact for individuals with access to health care enables employment, healthier lifestyles and community support that is a positive health and economic driver.

Summer Toni Dengel far shot
Compass CEO Summer Kirby speaks to a capacity crowd that gathered to hear and share our community’s perspective on health care issues with Senator Bernie Sanders


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