November 17, 2022 by Tammy Howell
North Country HealthCare recognizes National Rural Health Day every November.
Rural Health Day is intended to recognize the efforts of those going the extra mile to address the healthcare needs of rural communities.
Read on to learn how North Country HealthCare supports the healthcare needs of rural northern Arizona!
North Country HealthCare joins the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), the member organization for all 50 State Offices of Rural Health (SORH), and other state and national rural stakeholders in celebrating National Rural Health Day (NRHD) on Thursday, November 17, 2022.
NOSORH founded National Rural Health Day in 2011 to showcase the efforts of individuals and organizations going the extra mile to address the unique healthcare needs of rural communities. National Rural Health Day is an annual day of recognition which occurs on the third Thursday of November.
The NRHD theme for 2022 is, “Driving Change and Going the Extra Mile.” North Country HealthCare is the primary community health center in northern Arizona. Our service area, which extends along Interstate 40, is largely rural and sparsely populated. Each community in the service area is considered a Medically Underserved Area or MUA, meaning there is not enough healthcare providers to serve the population. Flagstaff is an exception; it is designated as a Medically Underserved Population or MUP. Other barriers to care include reliable and affordable transportation, insurance coverage, employment status, education attainment, health literacy and poverty level, among other social determinants of health.
In addition to medical services, North Country HealthCare provides numerous community health programs to address these barriers. These include programs to support families, provide diabetes care, support patients with HIV/AIDS, screen individuals who were exposed to harmful radiation, and much more. North Country HealthCare also brings care directly to patients with our mobile medical unit. The unit travels to rural locations throughout Coconino and Mohave Counties to improve access to care for those patients for whom transportation is a barrier to healthcare.
Jonathan Benitez, LPC, LMHC is the Behavioral Health Integration Manager at North Country HealthCare. Part of Jonathan’s role is to expand behavioral health services to patients at every North Country location across rural northern Arizona.
“Serving behavioral health patients has been a calling for me for over 16 years,” Jonathan said. “To me, it means giving a voice to those who often suffer in silence. Rural communities present unique challenges which require dedicated providers who are passionate caring for underserved areas, or what I call ‘healthcare deserts.’ I was honored to serve in rural communities with the National Health Care Service Corps during the COVID-19 pandemic when mental health care was needed most. It will stay with me as a high professional achievement.”
Therese McMahan is a certified nurse midwife who treats patients at North Country HealthCare’s Flagstaff – 4th Street location.
“I started my career 31 years ago at Indian Health Services on a reservation south of Tempe, Arizona.” Therese said. “It was overwhelming to be a new grad in a rural area, and at the same time I fell in love with the people and the practice of rural medicine. It took all that I had. Pushed me to my limits and made me hungry to learn and provide healthcare to the women in the community.”
“I felt and continue to feel a commitment to take care of women in their community. For a woman to have to leave her community in order to access healthcare puts her whole family at risk. Women cannot always just leave and drive 2 hours for care or a procedure or to have their baby. If they have other children or dependents, then the best place for them to be is close to home. My connection to the people in the community is so much stronger in a rural setting. You are my neighbors and friends.”
Steven Situ, PharmD serves patients at North Country HealthCare’s pharmacy at the Grand Canyon. Patients now have access to a full-time pharmacist on-site, thanks to Steven.
“National Rural Health Day is a day to acknowledge the healthcare challenges that rural communities have and to recognize all rural healthcare providers for the impact that they have and all that they do,” Steven said. “As a pharmacist, the most rewarding aspect of rural living is that I get to see many familiar faces day in and day out. I get to build strong patient provider relationships over time, and that helps me serve our patients better and in turn is more rewarding. This captures the true essence of rural living: tightly knit communities that are down to earth, welcoming, and a breath of fresh air from everyday city living.”
Additional information about National Rural Health Day, including free stakeholder tools, registration for featured events, and the release of the 2022 Community Star eBook honoring individuals and organizations from 48 different states can be found at PowerofRural.org. To learn more about NOSORH, visit www.nosorh.org.
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