Daughters of Charity Services: An ounce of prevention

At the 2018 Ascension Leadership Convovation in Dallas, Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans (DCSNO) received the “Ascension Living the Mission and Values Award.” Pictured, from left, are: Daughter of Charity Sister Maureen McGuire, executive vice president, Mission Integration, Ascension; Anthony Tersigni, EdD, FACHE, president and CEO, Ascension; Patricia A. Maryland, Dr. PH, CEO, Ascension Health Care; Sister Mary Kay Hadican, C.S.J., chair, Ascension Sponsor; Michael Griffin, president/CEO, DCSNO; Daughter of Charity Sister Bonnie Hoffman, vice president, Mission Integration, DCSNO; Stephanie Rhodes Navarre, chair of the Board of Trustees, DCHC; and Timothy Glover, senior vice president, Mission Integration, Ascension Health Care.

Approaching its 185th year Jan. 6 of providing health care in New Orleans, the Daughters of Charity’s current model – Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans (DCSNO) – has been recognized by its parent company, Ascension Health, with the “Ascension Living the Mission and Values Award” for improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations.

DCSNO, the largest of Ascension’s five ministry markets without a hospital, focuses on primary care and prevention – keeping people healthy while reducing emergency room visits, said Michael G. Griffin, DCSNO president and CEO. 

“Ascension recognized us because of our associates’ work and dedication to primary care and prevention through innovation of programming and the social determinants of health and improving the health care status in the community,” Griffin said. “Ascension recognized that work and specific ministries like our Diabetes Institute and Care Fellowship and our outreach through our mobile units in schools, health education and our general charism and focus on prevention.”

Continuum of care

What has been remarkable about the Daughters of Charity is its intuitiveness to meeting community needs since it first came to New Orleans in 1830 and eventually worked with the state of Louisiana in 1834 to manage Charity Hospital.

The sisters were then approached by members of the community to open a private hospital, Hotel Dieu, in 1859, Griffin said. Forty years later, Hotel Dieu School of Nursing began training nurses. That was followed by operating the DePaul mental health facility in Uptown New Orleans.

As the need for hospital beds waned, the sisters changed their health care model to one of community health centers.

“The city was a desert as far as outpatient community health, wellness and preventive focus in the community” was concerned, Griffin said. A strategic plan ensued, with the start of behavioral health and wellness programs in schools and churches.

By 1996, the Daughters of Charity’s first community health center opened in the Carrollton Shopping Center. Hurricane Katrina devastated that facility and caused the Daughters to start thinking, “Where should we go?” They knew they wanted to remain in the Hollygrove-Gert Town area. 

The result was renovating a bank on South Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans into a full-service community health center.

It is one of 10 DCSNO locations offering dental, mental and behavioral health services and a pharmacy that serves 55,000 annually. DCSNO also has medical care mobile vans that visit 11 public and three Catholic schools including St. Rita New Orleans, St. Augustine High School and St. Mary’s Academy. 

“In 2017, we went from 40,000 to 52,000 (patients),” Griffin said. “In one year, we added 10,000.” 

Looking beyond healthcare

DCSNO’s preventive care model has proven successful, especially in treating diabetes with its Diabetes Institute and its care for Hepatitis C patients.  

“We are definitely focusing on our core business of dental, mental health, medical and doing a lot more with helping people manage chronic conditions,” Griffin said. “We are working more with patients on empowering them in managing their own conditions,” such as hypertension and diabetes.

“The working poor have so many factors that impact their lives,” Griffin said. “Health care becomes a back-burner issue – who wants to go to the doctor when you are trying to feed your family?”

That’s why, since March 2018, DCSNO began a Care Fellowship Team composed of 12 community health workers and care managers who meet patients where they are, including home visits, and connect them with community services they may need. Lack of housing and clothing, food insecurity, education, finances and legal matters can turn into a “health care” issue down the road, Griffin said. (Currently housing is the top issue for many.) These “coordinators” get patients to necessary appointments and follow up after emergency room or in-patient services.

“The health care workers are helping address these issues,” Griffin said. 

Griffin said it was that work for which DCSNO was honored by Ascension, the largest Catholic and nonprofit health care system in the country. 

  “Ascension looks at DC SNO New Orleans as a model because we are trying to keep people out of the hospital,” he said.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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