Transition in leadership. Improved and expanded facilities. Growing services.
The year 2017 will go down as another year where Promise Community Health Center continued to evolve and grow to meet the needs of northwest Iowa.
Here are just some of the big stories that filled the pages of Promise’s news blog during the past year:
1. FOUNDING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RETIRES
No name has been more synonymous to Promise than Nancy Dykstra, but she now hands off the reins to new leadership.
Dykstra – who played an integral role in the planning and establishment of Promise and then became its founding executive director in 2008 – announced in July her plans to retire at the end of the year.
As executive director, Dykstra navigated Promise through an arduous four-year campaign to obtain its designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2012. She oversaw the health center’s growth of services from preventative and primary medical and prenatal care to a comprehensive range of core services that now includes dental, vision/eye, family planning behavioral health and outreach assistance. She guided the health center through a continuous expansion of facilities that now encompass all of the available space in Sioux Center’s former bowling alley building, which Promise first leased and now owns.
For her outstanding contributions to Promise and her tireless advocacy to the community health center model of care, Dykstra was awarded the 2017 Carl Kulczyk Memorial Award by the Iowa Primary Care Association on Oct. 17 during its annual conference in Des Moines. Her contributions also were celebrated during Promise’s ninth annual “An Evening of Promise” Celebration and Fundraiser on Nov. 2 and a retirement Christmas party on Dec. 12.
She will leave a legacy of service.
“What is most satisfying to me as I look back on my time as Promise’s executive director is knowing that the center will continue to be here for all those who need access to care – care provided with dignity and compassion, no matter a person’s income level, background or life situation,” Dykstra said. “Working in a health center is about working with people – meeting them where they are and addressing their situation as it is. It’s about building roads out for people who face barriers. A wonderfully rewarding journey.”
To learn more about the positive influence she has had in leading Promise from its humble beginnings to where it it today, read this feature story.
2. NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ASSUMES ROLE
A new leader was selected to lead Promise into its next chapter: Nathan Vander Plaats.
His selection in November culminated an extensive four-month search process to replace Promise’s founding executive director, Nancy Dykstra. He assumed his role Dec. 11.
Vander Plaats steadily progressed in leadership roles throughout his career.
He served as a caseworker for former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in his state offices in Sioux City and later Davenport for six years, 2003-09. He then was promoted to the position of regional director for the senator’s Sioux City office, where he oversaw all operations for the western third of Iowa for three years, 2009-12. Shortly after earning his master’s degree in public administration from Iowa State University of Ames in 2012, Vander Plaats accepted the position of director of mission services for Iowa and Nebraska for Goodwill of the Great Plains. In January 2017, he was promoted to the position of director of retail for Goodwill of the Great Plains, leading 350 retail team members, including 21 store managers and five sales territory managers.
He said one word sums up why he was interested in leading Promise: “People.”
“Thousands of people from all walks of life rely on Promise every year for their health needs, and Promise’s amazing staff is responsible for meeting those health needs,” he said. “When I first interviewed with Promise for this position, I was struck by the authentic care with which they approached their work for those who come to Promise. The board and employees’ passionate care for others is what really attracted me to Promise.”
To learn more about Vander Plaats, read this story.
3. PROMISE LAUNCHES EXTERIOR RENOVATION
The deteriorating yellow, steel exterior of Promise’s building is being transformed into a much more inviting and modern look.
Promise’s facelift was made possible thanks the generous donations of many individuals and businesses. Promise launched a $250,000 capital campaign for the exterior renovation project in November 2016. The health center committed to 50 percent of the cost, but it appealed to the greater community to donate the remaining funds – or $125,000 – to make the project a reality. That goal was successfully reached during the early portion of 2017.
All four sides of the building are being renovated with a brick and EIFS finish. A new front doorway and floor-to-ceiling windows were installed on the west side. Promise’s awnings on the west and east sides will be replaced with a modern lighted feature. A new entrance was installed for the Los Palmas Mexican Grocery Store on the north side. Sidewalks were reconstructed to enhance safety.
“Improving the exterior of the building for Promise is an exciting project for many reasons, but most of all, I believe it says to the community that the services and resources of a federally qualified health center are vital to a diversifying and healthy community,” Dykstra said. “I believe our patients, staff and the greater community can take pride in a building that is welcoming and inviting.”
Schelling Construction began construction work on the project in August, and the renovation project now is in its final stages.
To learn more about the project, read this story.
4. PROMISE EXPANDS INTERIOR FACILITIES
All of the available spaces in Sioux Center’s former bowling alley are now full.
This spring, Promise completed a 2,200-square-foot expansion and renovation project that filled the remaining vacant spaces of its building.
The interior expansion project included a much larger community education/conference room, two patient rooms and two offices. The vision/eye care program moved into one of the exam rooms, and the second exam room will allow for future growth. The two new offices are occupied by the executive director and chief financial officer.
The project also involved the remodeling and reuse of existing spaces, including the former conference room that has been divided into four office cubicles. The project also opened up an exam room and offices to better facilitate staff and services.
“The expansion and remodel of space at Promise says that we will continue to grow and change – always looking for ways that best meet the needs of those we seek to serve,” Dykstra said.
To learn more about the project, read this story.
5. PROMISE AWARDED $166,120 TO EXPAND MENTAL HEALTH
Promise will be on the front lines of tackling the growing opioid epidemic.
The health center was awarded a $166,130 Access Increases in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (AIMS) grant in September from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant will enable Promise to expand its mental health services and add substance abuse services – with a particular focus of addressing people’s addiction to opioids, which are drugs used to reduce pain.
In the process, Promise will hire two full-time professionals – a licensed mental health social worker and a bilingual mental health assistant – and increase its behavioral health services from 11 to 32 hours per week.
Dykstra said the grant will allow Promise to expand its current integrated and team-based model of behavioral health care with primary care. Promise will implement evidence-based screening, assessment, and mental health and substance abuse practices. Promise will enhance collaboration and referral services with local behavioral health providers and community-based organizations.
“Promise CHC will educate the community on the opioid epidemic and provide resources and tools to assist families on seeking help for family members,” Dykstra said. “This is vital to address the growing opioid epidemic in our community and nation.”
To learn more, read this story.
To learn more, read this story.
THE BEST OF THE REST . . .
To be sure, these stories were just the start of what was another busy year at Promise.
Other top stories included:
- A nurse health coach was added as a new position at Promise to interact on a one-on-one basis with patients to help them with chronic conditions. Not long after being hired to the part-time role, Stephanie Van Ruler had a full slate of patients. She now is moving into a full-time role, and nurse Kim Davelaar also will be transitioning into the nurse health coach role to further expand the service.
- Roleen Walgenbach was hired in the spring to fill in as a part-time nurse practitioner. In the process, Promise added a new service of offering Department of Transportation medical exams to commercial motor vehicle drivers due to her certification in that area.
- Promise expanded its vision/eye care services from one day to two days per week when Dr. Tyler Vermeer of Family Eye Care of Rock Valley began seeing patients in August. He takes appointments 1-5 p.m. Tuesdays, while Dr. Dan Clousing continues to see patients 8 a.m.-noon Wednesdays.
- Promise launched its online patient portal, called MyPromiseChart, in September, giving patients access to their personal health information right at their fingertips.
- Promise’s midwifery team attended 12 home births in August – a record for one month. Six of the births were in South Dakota and six in Iowa.