Mark Twain Forest Regional Health Alliance

In 2003, Reynolds County Health Center (RCHC) administrator recognized the need to form an interagency group to collaborate, identify and discuss healthcare in the area along with the over lapping needs of the citizens. Over 30 community leaders from Reynolds County and the surrounding counties met in Centerville. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) provided a neutral staff facilitator to guide the group into consensus on identifying the healthcare gaps and how they could work together to find the services they needed to over come the lack of needed health care.

After three months of meetings only six leaders remained. These six agencies were committed to the task of forming a solid partnership. From this commitment, the Mark Twain Forest Regional Health Alliance (MTFRHA) was formed. The six inaugural members were RCHC, Carter County Health Department, the local Federally Qualified Healthcare Center, two faith based agencies- Whole Health Outreach & Whole Kids Outreach, and the local Critical Access Hospital (CAH) known as Advanced Healthcare Medical Services. These six members began putting in place the building blocks needed to work as a collaborative. They obtained their non-for-profit 501c3 status and continued to meet monthly. All of the six agencies recognized the rapidly narrowing of funding opportunities. They also recognized that healthcare funders were moving away from the "silo mentality" and into a collaborative funding market. We are now in an "era of collaborative partnerships" and this new vision and thinking was developing at high speed. The Alliance was right on time to take its rightful place in the healthcare funding arena. 

Officers were elected, a vision & mission statement were agreed upon and written and the search began for funding for development of this fledgling collaborative. The Alliance wrote a grant to HRSA for a federally funded opportunity and was one of 15 groups that were funded nationally. This funding was used to set down the development structure and to solidify the collaboration. The victory was celebrated and the group continued to move forward in the quest for unity. It was through this members view each other as competitors and seeks to protect individual "turf". They now began to experience trust, friendship and caring for one another and ceased being on guard with ideas and feelings.

Upon completion of the first grant, the Alliance sought funding for strategic planning. Missouri Foundation for Health awarded the Alliance funding to work with a consultant to build a plan for the group with all members engaged in the process. It was hard work and a "stretch" for each individual agency to change a mind set of individuality into a partnership goal. All members began to "feel" the change of heart and this was reinforced when we started reading the funding opportunities. Potential funders on all levels were now encouraging, and in some instances requiring a collaborative, to apply for their funding opportunities. Not only were they encouraging a collaborative to apply, they were awarding additional scoring points to those who had a vision and stamina to form these lasting partnerships. A professor of social work joined the membership and brought the needed opinions and ideas from the academic perspective. Missouri Foundation for Health funded the Alliance in their quest for strategic planning.

 The now seven Alliance members did a self-assessment and prioritization of health needs in the community to hone in on the gaps within our area. This was the time frame when childhood obesity and inactivity began to appear huge on the horizon. It was also the time three additional Local Public Health Agencies joined the Alliance and the membership grew to 10 members. Missouri Foundation for Health announced a funding opportunity for interested agencies to address obesity and inactivity in children. With membership and presence in a five county region, the Alliance writes a grant proposal "Healthy and Active Rural Communities". The Alliance was awarded funding for three years. The funded proposal had a goal opportunity for each of the 10 members. Through this grant the Alliance was able to draw in 14 schools and assist them in policy changes and it included a small stipend for each school for their work in increased activity and nutritional education. This grant became very successful and Missouri Foundation for Health now offered a Model Best Practice opportunity for additional three year funding to expand the original work and establish sustainability of the changes made during the grant period.

The Alliance remains strong and now has an office presence with the community. The Alliance office is located on Main Street in Van Buren, Missouri. This collaborative is ever expanding and is putting the finishing touches on an Alliance website and a marketing packet to make their presence known in the state and beyond. The Alliance is active and engaged in the needs of the community and has taken a strong presence in this "era of collaboration". To find out more about the Alliance, call Carla Cunningham, Executive Director at the office at (573) 323-0144 or .

The Alliance Membership is listed as:

Kathleen Zimmerman, RN, Director  - Reynolds County Health Center - President MTFRHA

Sr. Rita Schonhoff, MA, LPN  - Whole Health Outreach - Vice President MTFRHA

Deborah Sandarciero, BSN, RN, BC - Carter County Health Center - President Elect/Secretary MTFRHA

Sr. Anne Francioni, RN, BA - Whole Kids Outreach - Treasurer MTFRHA

Sherilyn Clark, RN, MPH, CEO - Missouri Highlands Healthcare, Inc.

Kandra Counts, Administrator - Shannon County Health Center

Rae Jean Crutchfield, Administrator - Wayne County Health Center

Heidi Wharton, Administrator - Iron County Health Department

Joyce Barklow, RN, MSN, CCM, CCP-CNO, Onsite Administrator - Advanced Healthcare Medical Services

For the MTFRHA website, click here

Carter County Health Center - 1611 Health Center Rd./P.O. Box 70

Van Buren, MO 63965 - Phone: 573-323-4413