IPAC gains non-profit status

The regional children’s rural health network Integrating Professionals for Appalachian Children (IPAC) recently gained non-profit charity status. This qualifies the network and its member organizations to apply for additional funding streams, and it makes individual donations to IPAC tax-deductible. 

Those benefits will help sustain and expand the efforts of IPAC over time, according to Jane Hamel-Lambert, Ph.D., IPAC president and director of interdisciplinary mental health education at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM).

“IPAC came about as a means to share expertise, integrate efforts and make children’s comprehensive health care more accessible for parents and other caregivers,” said Hamel-Lambert. “We’re trying to leverage the resources we have now to more efficiently serve children.”

The network comprises fourteen community agencies in Athens, Hocking, Meigs and Vinton Counties, including several Ohio University departments and clinics. Representatives of member organizations meet regularly to share how they identify and assess mental health risks in early childhood, forge new collaborations and eliminate redundant efforts.

“I think IPAC is somewhat unique in its scale of cooperation among community and university programs,” said Dave Hunter, director of Help Me Grow, an Athens County Children Services program for expectant parents, newborns, infants and toddlers. Hunter added that Help Me Grow has already benefited from the collaboration in the form of increased referrals from other IPAC members. “We’re becoming more aware of each others’ services, and we’re cross-training to better identify different development risks.”

IPAC developed and supports a “family navigator” position: a registered nurse who works with families of children to overcome common barriers to health care—from demystifying medical diagnoses to facilitating transportation.

“As family navigator, I walk parents through many steps, not only to make sure their child receives appropriate services, but to also make sure the parents know what is happening at each step and why,” said Sue Meeks, IPAC’s first family navigator and a behavioral health care coordinator at OU-COM.

Meeks explains that families often toil through multiple referrals before reaching a diagnosis or treatment plan. “Previously, parents repeatedly answered the same questions, often not understanding why they were there. As family navigator, I gather all the information prior to the referral and also ensure that the parents have the information they need to make informed choices about their child’s care.”

IPAC, which received a Distinguished Rural Health Program Award from the Ohio Department of Health in September, is currently supported by a three-year, $540,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office of Rural Health Policy.

Over the next three years, IPAC members plan to expand services offered by the family navigator program, develop interdisciplinary mental health assessments and comprehensive care plans for children, and further train child care and health care providers to screen children regularly for social and developmental risks.

From the College of Osteopathic Medicine Office of Communication. Click here for the full announcement.