Six years ago, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) joined an informal group of healthcare providers—Friendship Centers (FC), Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (SMH), and Florida Department of Health (FLDOH)—to provide a platform for a more formal collaboration. The leaders of these organizations decided it was necessary to meet on a regular basis to address the challenges of providing healthcare to the uninsured and underinsured people of Sarasota County.
Since the inception of this initiative, healthcare has experienced massive change. The original leaders of the aforementioned organizations have either retired or moved on, and Florida has emerged from a horrible recession. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the need for a health safety net in our community.
In its role, TPF focused on building relationships among the newer generation of leaders. In 2011, each of the leaders of SMH, FC and FLDOH knew each other and had worked together for years. There was limited need to focus on the relationships. However, as these leaders left and the next generation came into being, the need to connect these folks to each other was necessary. And while each successor was privy to the working relationship which existed between their predecessors, there was no guarantee that things would continue.
Part of the “platform” TPF provided was an organizational and meeting structure comprising a steering committee, task forces, and workgroups. Each consisted of representatives from each of the three organizations. Allowing for this interaction between the groups provided a forum for learning and sharing between the entities. While these organizations worked together for years, the fact is, until this initiative, many key players had never met. TPF helped to create relationships and develop mutual respect between the representatives.
Now there are four. In late 2016, the decision was made to separate primary care away from the FLDOH and into a separate entity called Community Health Centers of Sarasota County. This meant that a new entity became part of the health safety net. This evolution was significant because the work to transition 25,000+ patients into a new entity is daunting. Fortunately, the collaboration existed, and this initiative became a forum for the leaders to discuss the challenges of making this type of change. (This will continue into 2018.)
After six years and numerous changes, the collaboration is strong enough that it no longer needs The Patterson Foundation to support it. The group will continue to meet and discuss opportunities to work together and to help with the transition previously mentioned.
Upon reflection, I believe it is remarkable that this collaboration has endured for six years with plans to continue. This tenure is a testament to the leaders of these organizations and their recognition that to solve a challenging problem, groups must work together. Each agency has its role to play, and no single entity can do it all.
The Patterson Foundation is proud of the role it played in this initiative and is excited to see it continue. This initiative has truly demonstrated the power of collaboration.