For our July 27th episode, Senator Frist sits down with rural health expert Dr. Sarah Chouinard, who shares the startling reality of what clinicians experience on the ground in rural communities, and how care can be transformed to better meet local needs.
Dr. Chouinard discusses the special character of rural providers, noting how, “they understand the benefits of really being a thread in the fabric of what makes up a rural community.” She herself was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, and returned to Huntington for her medical training when the city was considered “ground zero for the opioid epidemic.”
Dr. Chouinard serves as Chief Medical Officer at Community Care of West Virginia, a federally qualified health center operating 17 outpatient clinics and 50 school-based centers across 9 counties in central West Virginia. She recently served as National Faculty for CMS’s Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, and was previously recognized by the West Virginia Rural Health Association as “Rural Practitioner of the Year.”
“One big issue with rural medicine is recruiting doctors. One of the barriers that we found is people didn’t want to deal with the opioid epidemic,” explains Dr. Chouinard. That’s why she and her team “built a pain management program so all of the patients that have persistent pain, chronic pain, are funneled into one site, and then this treatment program is rigorous.” It’s a unique approach that has garnered national attention. But it’s another creative care initiative that she’s even more excited about: “The most innovative thing I think that we’ve done is the collaboration with the schools. We have 50 school-based health centers, these are essentially the doctor’s office in the school itself.”
Dr. Chouinard also details how Medicaid expansion in West Virginia impacted care, noting that, “Once Medicaid expansion happened, we saw a lot of people who then qualified who came in with significant uncontrolled chronic illness … we saw a lot of new patients … and a lot of those patients were sick.”
Click here to listen to this week’s episode and hear more from Dr. Sarah Chouinard about the frontlines of rural care, the continuing challenges of the opioid epidemic, and the innovative solutions that are making a difference.