Changing Aging Blog

Ecumen’s Janet Green Speaks on Creating an Innovative Rural Health Care Center
Date: Oct 24th, 2014 11:21am


Ben Taylor

Janet Green, Executive Director at Ecumen Detroit Lakes, has spent the past year working on the transformation of the campus to a “one-stop hub” that is drawing national attention for its cutting-edge approach to delivering rural health care services.

Bringing the innovation to life has been grueling work involving a major makeover, but now the end is in sight. Earlier this week Janet was asked to showcase the project to aging services leaders from across the country at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting in Nashville.  LeadingAge is the national association of nonprofit aging services organizations.

Janet spoke at a panel session entitled “Transforming Rural Service Delivery,” giving her colleagues the vision behind the changes and the lessons learned in making them happen.

Called “The Commons at Detroit Lakes,” the new center aims to create an “ageless” approach to managed care for all people by transforming a senior care campus into a health, wellness, social and educational center for the entire community. Ecumen Detroit Lakes is developing community-based resources to welcome and engage the entire region in the goal of improving the overall quality of life of the area.

Janet told the LeadingAge session that the center will integrate technology, socialization, fitness, nutrition and health care with innovations such as an Internet café where people can learn more about medicine, health and alternative therapies, a therapeutic treadmill pool open to all ages and telemedicine capabilities.  Telemedicine technology will enable remote doctor visits and consultations with specialists. Additionally, there will be multi-purpose activity space open for support groups, art and education outreach programs.

The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation is the lead grant funder on the project, with a $3 million contribution, and Ecumen is investing $8 million.  Other funding partners are Otto Bremer Foundation, Shavlik Family Foundation, Statewide Health Improvement Program (S.H.I.P.), State of MN Performance Improvement Grants, Minnesota Department of Human Services Threshold Reimbursement Program, Health Force Minnesota, Detroit Lakes Initiative Fund, State of Minnesota Arts Grant, and numerous individuals and local businesses.

She said Ecumen believes the innovative care “hub” concept is potentially replicable on a large scale and plans to closely monitor the results in Detroit Lakes to fashion a model for other rural communities. By making high quality health and wellness care readily available, she said Ecumen hopes to reduce the number of seniors utilizing the most expensive personal and subsidized care options and to empower more effective aging in place, while also improving the overall quality of health and wellness care for the entire region.

“Our goal is to assist people to age well,” Janet said.

Bringing the new center online has been an enormous undertaking, Janet said, and she shared  lessons she has learned.

“Expect resistance to change,” she told the session.  “Even positive changes are difficult.  Educated, educate, educate, and listen, listen, listen.”

She encouraged the LeadingAge audience: “Always have a wish list ranging from small items to a dream project. It is amazing how many really do come true and it is fun to cross them off and write completed!”

Ecumen Detroit Lakes, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, serves approximately 400 clients,  and is a full-service senior living campus offering independent living, housing with services, home care, assisted living, memory care, short stay rehabilitation, skilled nursing and palliative care. Detroit Lakes, Minn., is located in largely rural Becker County, about 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Janet Green (second from left, front row) with attendees at Leading Age session on "Transforming Rural Service Delivery."

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