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PETALUMA -- Redwood Community Health Coalition recently brought on Steve Ramsland, former chief executive officer of nonprofit Buckelew  Programs, as its new chief executive officer as the network of community health centers embarks on key initiatives adapting to health care reform.

[caption id="attachment_77360" align="alignleft" width="221"] Steve Ramsland[/caption]

Mr. Ramsland assumed the role part-time in April and full time in May, after working as a health care consultant for Open Minds, advising behavioral health providers and payers on issues related to health reform and mental health.

Prior to that, he oversaw Buckelew's behavioral health efforts across Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties for four years. In that time, Buckelew undertook several initiatives related to the adaptation of the Affordable Care Act -- including the merger of San Rafael-based Buckelew and Family Service Agency of Marin.

"The issues I was working on with (Open Minds) were the same that Redwood was working on, in terms of getting them ready for health reform," Mr. Ramsland said. "It looked like a great opportunity to, instead of doing short-term projects, have a chance to do it full time with some of the health centers."

Now, with the Redwood coalition, Mr. Ramsland aims to help its health centers, which include some of the biggest federally qualified health centers in the region, maintain competitiveness as more patients become insured by more thoroughly integrating key resources.

Among such efforts is forming an accountable care organization, an initiative under health care reform that seeks to integrate care with multiple payers and providers to improve outcomes, with some of the larger FQHCs and behavioral health providers.

"We have formed an ACO, and that's Redwood Community Care, which is the process of applying to be an ACO," Mr. Ramsland said. Such ACOs are geared specifically toward the Medicare population and are overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

The health centers making up the Redwood coalition treat about 220,000 patients across Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Yolo counties, of which between 5,000 and 10,000 are Medicare eligible. Mr. Ramsland did not name which health centers might be included in the ACO, but some of the larger health centers include Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, West County Health Centers in Guerneville and Petaluma Health Center.

Other efforts already underway by the Redwood coalition include the administration of electronic health records for its network, which seek to integrate separate health centers and move more toward the medical-home model. The use of EHRs by the nonprofit health centers, from Clinic Ole in Napa to Marin Community Clinics, will better position the health centers to both maintain its patient base and provide better care, Mr. Ramsland said.

"We are actively working with our members, doing both outreach and in-reach and strengthening the relationship with people we already have with patient engagement strategies," Mr. Ramsland said. The goal, he said, is to "basically give them a strong patient experience that's going to keep them coming back to us in the future."

While EHRs are increasingly commonplace for large health systems, Mr. Ramsland said the Redwood coalition is much further along than much of the nonprofit health world, having established the infrastructure in 2007. Now, efforts are being stepped up to make the patient experience more seamless.

"One of the things we're implementing over the next several months is a patient portal," Mr. Ramsland said. "Patients will increasingly be able to self-direct and manage their care and have access to their health record in a really engaged kind of way."

Mr. Ramsland also said the delivery of behavioral health care will play an increasingly vital role for the health centers, as many safety-net providers see a good deal of patients experiencing mental health issues. And that, in turn, can have a significant impact on primary care and health outcomes.

Prior to working at Buckelew, Mr. Ramsland was chief development officer and president of public sector matters for Comprehensive Behavioral Health, Inc.  Before that he was vice president of Optum Health's public-sector practice.