Washtenaw Health Initiative releases 2014 Annual Report, begins new phase of work


Carrie Rheingans
Heather Guenther

Washtenaw Health Initiative releases 2014 Annual Report, begins new phase of work

Download the report
Download the report

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI) releases its 2014 annual report today, highlighting its efforts over the past year to increase insurance coverage and improve access to coordinated, integrated care for Washtenaw County’s most vulnerable populations.

The report also recognizes the close of WHI’s first phase of work, which spanned from 2011 through 2014. In the initial phase of its work, the WHI focused on preparing the county for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage expansions in 2014 and improving the integration and coordination of health care services for the county’s low-income, Medicaid, and uninsured populations.

The WHI includes 180 of people in the stakeholders group representing 70 organizations. The stakeholders considered whether the work of the WHI had been completed with the launch of the ACA, but concluded that the ability to work together on health care issues across organizations in a facilitated process was of tremendous value and should continue. As a result, the WHI steering committee and stakeholders have developed a new three year plan. Going forward, the WHI will maintain its primary focus on Washtenaw County residents who are low-income, uninsured, or underinsured. In addition, the WHI goals for 2015-2017 are to:

  1. Increase insurance coverage of uninsured individuals.
  2. Help those with Medicaid coverage and/or those who are underinsured maintain that coverage, understand it, use it more effectively, and/or find access to care.
  3. Improve coordination and integration for health care services.
  4. Align entities engaged in delivery of health-related services to more efficiently and effectively utilize resources.
  5. Strengthen community wide efforts to improve care and services for mental health and other select health issues and/or select populations.

“Hundreds in our community are now enrolled in health insurance and have access to health care services, thanks to the tremendous effort of WHI members,” says Robert Guenzel, WHI Co-Chair and former Washtenaw County Administrator. “We’ve accomplished much in four years, but it is clear that there is more that we can—and will—do to improve health care in Washtenaw County.”

During its first phase, the WHI focused on three key areas: increasing and maintaining insurance coverage; improving access to coordinated, integrated care; and becoming a model and resource for other communities that are considering how best to serve the needs of their most vulnerable citizens.

Highlights of the WHI’s work from November 2013 through December 2014 include:

  • The WHI’s Community Outreach and Education Project convened representatives from more than 40 local organizations on enrolling residents in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace or the Healthy Michigan Plan, Michigan’s Medicaid expansion.
  • Community Outreach and Education Project members also trained more than 90 University of Michigan students to perform community outreach and enrollment education. The students discussed coverage options with 283 Washtenaw County citizens at nine presentations and 13 outreach events.
  • The WHI’s Opioid Project brought together experts in substance use—including law enforcement, public health officials, health plans, providers, and community mental health—to address the growing problem of opioid overdose in Washtenaw County. Proposed interventions for 2015 will address: providing Naloxone (medication used to counter the effects of opioid overdose) access for first responders, provider education, substance abuse treatment center protocols, community engagement to promote recovery efforts, and prevention among youths.
  • The WHI’s Safety Net Clinic Coordination Project led to the synchronization of Packard Health Clinic and Corner Health Center’s electronic medical record systems, increasing the ease of patient referrals between the two community-based clinics.

The WHI has also established itself as a resource in the field of health for other Michigan communities. Recently, the WHI provided input to the Michigan Department of Community Health for the state’s Blueprint for Health Innovation, which was awarded $70 million by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in December 2014. At the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System summit on August 21, 2014, WHI contributed ideas on ways to engage and serve the families of veterans through the VA.

“We are delighted with the ongoing commitment of our stakeholders and funders to the work of the WHI,” says Norman Herbert, a WHI Co-Chair and former University of Michigan Treasurer. “During the past three years, we identified key areas, such as mental health, where we can deepen our current efforts. Over the next three years, WHI members will tackle these new areas of focus as we do now: together.”

A report on the WHI’s mission, goals, projects, and accomplishments to date will be released this summer.

Community groups that are interested in joining the WHI can contact WHI Project Manager Carrie Rheingans (crheinga@umich.edu) for more information. To view all WHI annual reports, please visit https://washtenawhealthinitiative.org/findings/annual-reports/  Thank you to Maddie Zavala at  re:group, inc. for the wonderful design of this annual report!


The Washtenaw Health Initiative is a voluntary, county-wide collaboration focused on how to improve access to coordinated care for the low-income, uninsured, and Medicaid populations. The effort includes representatives from the University of Michigan Health System, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, health plans, county government, community services, physicians, and safety net providers. More than 70 organizations and 180 individuals participate. For more information, visit www.washtenawhealthinitiative.com.

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