Kentucky River Community Care: Taking NIATx to the Next Level

Submitted by: 07/13/2012 by Maureen Fitzgerald

As an honorable mention winner for the 2012 iAward, Kentucky River Community Care is no stranger to innovation. (See related story on the 2012 iAwards.) The organization first began to use the NIATx model in 2003, as a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Paths to Recovery program.  Since then, KRCC’s initial focus on using process improvement to increase access to and retention in treatment has expanded to all areas of service delivery and business systems. This concentration on innovation was recognized in 2011 with not one, but two iAWARDS—one for innovation in management, and a second in process improvement, and a third award in 2012.

Based in Hazard, Kentucky, KRCC is a nonprofit community mental health center, providing mental health and substance abuse treatment services to residents of eight rural counties in eastern Kentucky. KRCC employs more than 500 staff in 50 operating sites across all eight counties. 

Mike Kadish, KRCC executive director, has been with the organization for more than 30 years. Since leading NIATx change teams as part of the Paths to Recovery grant, Kadish has been involved in multiple NIATx change projects at KRCC, from moving the entire organization to on-demand scheduling to using the NIATx model for workforce development. KRCC usually has several change projects going on at any one time.  An executive change team meets weekly to review the status of all ongoing initiatives.  “We credit the expert coaching we received from NIATx over the years for helping us build and sustain our process improvement culture,” says Kadish.

With a commitment to making its services available to clients who live in remote areas and have limited access to transportation, KRCC has also extended its process improvement efforts to technology. Its information technology department is dedicated to developing tele-health services, which have helped counselors provide services to clients in remote areas with limited transportation options.   As a member of the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies (CHESS) Health Education Consortium, KRCC is testing a smart phone application designed to help people maintain recovery from alcohol addiction. KRCC’s Director of Communications and Design, Charles Boggs, offered a workshop on KRCC’s pilot of this tool with pregnant and parenting women at this year’s SAAS Conference/NIATx Summit.

Now, KRCC is using the NIATx model to improve services across systems. “We’re working with other organizations serving the same client population,” explains Kadish, citing a recent effort with the Perry County school system to reduce truancy. Another project applied process improvement in child and family welfare to reduce the percentage of youth re-entering out-of-home care placement.

This cross-systems effort will get a boost from the NIATx Change Leader Academy that KRCC hosted in June. Thirty-three individuals received training, resulting in several new change teams for KRCC and the other agencies represented.

Concludes Kadish, “NIATx had definitely changed our culture and we’re excited about taking process improvement to the next level with our cross-systems projects.” 

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