REACH extends across county

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Brenda Sharpe, left, president and CEO of the REACH Healthcare Foundation, and Joyce Heismeyer, director of Allen County Hospital, visit with Sunny Shreeve, administrative assistant for Thrive Allen County. Sharpe and others from REACH were in Allen County Tuesday to get “a better sense of your community.”

The REACH Healthcare Foundation has invested $1.6 million since 2005 through 20 grants to promote safety-net health services, oral health and mental health for Allen Countians.
Brenda Sharpe, REACH president and CEO, told Allen County commissioners she was in town Tuesday to get “a better sense of your community.” Sharpe said Allen County had been more successful than five other counties in attracting money.
REACH started with $110 million from the sale in 2003 of Health Midwest, a regional nonprofit healthcare organization, to Hospital Corporation of America. It serves Allen, Wyandotte and Johnson counties in Kansas and Jackson, Cass and Lafayette counties in Missouri.
Sharpe told the Register today that the REACH corpus was at $100 million as of May 31.
Since 2005, REACH has invested $17 million in grants and initiatives in the six Kansas and Missouri counties. In 2009, it expects to distribute $5.2 million for programs and initiatives. Sharpe told commissioners that the $1.6 million in grants to Allen County represented 8 percent of total grant awards, while the county’s population was about 1.5 percent of the six-county service area.
“We came today to see aspects of the county that we typically wouldn’t see,” Sharpe said. “We want to learn about the businesses and industries that make Allen County tick.”
With Sharpe were Betsy Topper, a REACH vice president, Teresa Schwab, public policy director, and Iolan Karen Gilpin, a REACH director.
The visitors were escorted by David Toland, Thrive Allen County executive director. In addition to meeting with county commissioners, they spent time in LaHarpe and Humboldt, then met with REACH grantees past, present and future before a final session with the Thrive board, REACH’s Allen County board and others at Sidelines Sports Bar.

THE REACH staff constantly seeks ways to better serve residents of the six targeted counties and also pays attention to state policies that affect those populations, Sharpe said.
“We’re thrilled at the support given Thrive here,” she said, noting it was an organization that drew the community together and provided leverage for grants that came to Allen County. “It’s unusual to find such an organization in such a small community.”
Dick Works, commission chairman, said commissioners were eager to recruit doctors to the county, noting many currently here were nearing retirement age. That mission found favor with REACH, Sharpe said.
Commissioner Gary McIntosh said he had a passion to create a community foundation, which could work in concert with other organizations to raise money, much of which likely would be eligible for grant matches.
Sharpe commended both for their forward thinking and encouraged county commissioners to communicate with REACH in matters relating to safety-net, oral and mental health.