By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Earlier this year, Ballad Health announced the formation of an Accountable Care Community (ACC), which is a collaboration of over 200 organizations in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia committed to helping children in our region thrive.
While the ACC has a broader focus on helping entire families, an initiative announced last Wednesday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway is designed to hone in on organizations in our region that deal directly with children. STRONG Kids – which stands for Striving Toward Resiliency and Opportunities for the Next Generation – is a partnership between the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, Ballad Health and Niswonger Children’s Hospital that will strive to provide mainly nonprofit organizations with the tools, resources and funding to work more efficiently.
Wednesday’s announcement came during a forum that brought together several organizations from around the region to learn new information and begin strategizing in a coordinated manner. The first forum featured Dr. Karen Schetzina of ETSU Physicians, who spoke on childhood trauma and resiliency as well as adverse childhood experiences.
“It’s really looking at what programs need to be developed and how we can capitalize on existing programs,” said Lisa Carter, CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “Obviously Speedway Children’s Charities provides resources for a lot of these organizations, so if there are financial means that need to be distributed, then how collectively can we do that? It really is looking at a strategy for the region to have the greatest impact on kids.”
Indeed, Speedway Children’s Charities has been funding nonprofits that support kids throughout an 18-county area encompassing Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee for over 20 years. The fact the area served by SCC overlaps almost exactly with Ballad Health’s footprint makes the partnership a natural one.
Claudia Byrd, the executive director of SCC, said she is excited to have the opportunity to facilitate opportunities for the organizations supported by SCC to work together more efficiently.
“We’re lucky we get to raise money and give a check away at the end of the year, and that’s great, but these organizations through this partnership, we’re going to be able to give them so much more,” Byrd said. “We’re going to be able to give them tools to do their jobs and really improve the quality of life for children throughout the year. We’re going to give them information that they might not be able to get anywhere else.”
From Ballad’s standpoint, the STRONG Kids initiative is an opportunity to help everyone in our region begin doing some solid long-term planning that will pay big dividends down the road. The hope is to eliminate chronic problems that are plaguing our area by investing in young people and instituting preventative measures.
“At Ballad Health, we are thinking through not just the people that we serve through healthcare,” said Paula Masters, vice-president of health programs at Ballad Health. “our journey is going away from being just a healthcare delivery system to a community health improvement organization.”