Better Together: The Patterson Foundation Supports Sarasota's Health Care Safety Net Collaboration

Posted on January 30, 2012 by Michael Corley

By Michael Corley, The Patterson Foundation

When Dorothy Patterson created The Patterson Foundation (TPF) she gave no specifics as to how the money must be spent – other than to “do good” with it. Her unrestricted approach gave TPF the flexibility, opportunity, and responsibility to do things nonprofits, foundations, government and private enterprise can’t or won’t do. This is a responsibility that isn’t being taken lightly.

Like many communities, Sarasota faces an increasing demand on its healthcare system and declining resources.  The number of insured and underinsured in our county is increasing at such a rate as to jeopardize the entire healthcare system. In and of itself, this issue is not unique, and because TPF is not an issue-oriented foundation, we wouldn’t normally be involved.  However, this issue has created a collaboration that we feel obligated to support.  (Remember, we do things others can’t or won’t.

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (SMH), Sarasota County Health Department (SCHD) and Senior Friendship Centers (SFC) are the primary providers to the underinsured and uninsured in Sarasota County. For several years, they have worked together to try to effect change in the delivery of healthcare in our county.  However, this effort has taken an elevated importance over the past year or two because of what is happening with healthcare costs, the number of uninsured patients and healthcare reform.

Several months ago, the CEOs of these organizations began meeting bi-weekly to discuss how to develop a healthcare system of care which could preserve the quality of care being provided to uninsured and underinsured in Sarasota County. Staff from each organization continued working together to improve processes and outcomes.   Through these collaborative efforts, the groups realized that in order to develop a system of care comprehensive enough to be sustainable, they needed outside expertise to guide, coach and lead the project.

Enter The Patterson Foundation.

TPF recognized that at this point in the collaborative relationship among SMH, SCHD and SFC, and with the project at hand, the need to engage outside expertise was necessary to move forward. SMH, SCHD, and SFC could probably work among themselves to develop a system of care for Sarasota County. However, given the scope of this project, and given that each organization is very focused on day-to-day operations, the likelihood of a successful outcome would be questionable. The fact is, and TPF recognizes this, it is very difficult for organizations to tackle a complex and comprehensive project without outside assistance. To this end, TPF agreed to invest in this project by engaging a consulting firm with the expertise to work within a collaboration to deliver a result.

This project will evolve over the next year, and there is a chance that it will not meet its goals. Developing a system of care is not easy. But, because we have the flexibility, opportunity and responsibility, TPF is willing to take the risk of investing in the collaboration.

Worst case scenario – We tried but didn’t meet our goals. We learned what doesn’t work and will share this with other communities around the country.

Best case scenario – We help the collaboration transform the delivery of health care and share this with other communities around the country.


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