UPH Government & External Affairs

UnityPoint Health Hosts Iowa Legislative and Agency Leaders

by | Dec 15, 2021

Image (left to right): Jenn Crimmins, Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services administrator Marissa Eyanson, Leah Glasgo, Rep. Ann Meyer, Iowa Medicaid director Elizabeth Matney, Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, Jennifer Pullen, Dr. Katelyn Thompson, Ashley Thompson, and Jim Oberhelman. Image Source: UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge marketing & communications.

Throughout the fall, UnityPoint Health government & external affairs and regional leadership teams in Cedar Rapids, Fort Dodge and Grinnell hosted a series of state agency and legislative visits and roundtable discussions focused on behavioral health, maternal health, and child & adolescent health care services. The visits provided state and local leaders with unique opportunities to see and further understand the types of programs and services offered by UnityPoint Health in inpatient, outpatient, and community-based settings, while also affording real-time discussion about legislative and policy opportunities to further support care delivery in Iowa.

Visits to UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids and Fort Dodge Highlight Inpatient and Community-Based Behavioral Health Services

In October, Iowa Medicaid (IME) director Elizabeth (Liz) Matney and Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) administrator Marissa Eyanson and several key staff joined Iowa State Representative Ann Meyer (R-Fort Dodge), State Senator Tim Kraayenbrink (R-Fort Dodge) and Jim Oberhelman, staff for Iowa Congressman Randy Feenstra (R-IA-04) for a tour of UnityPoint Health – Berryhill Center in Fort Dodge. Jennifer Pullen, executive director of the Berryhill Center, hosted the tour and discussion around the Center’s extensive community-based programs, and newly launched behavioral health urgent care clinic. Dr. Katelyn Thompson, psychiatrist and medical director of the UnityPoint Health – Berryhill Center, highlighted the center’s extensive work in telepsychiatry services to meet the needs of patients throughout Northwest Central Iowa. Following the tour, a roundtable discussion with Leah Glasgo, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge, and Jenn Crimmins, ambulatory VP of UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge, highlighted continued focus on legislation and policies of support to the needs of patients with behavioral health and substance use disorder conditions.

Image: Carol Meade (second from left), discusses the importance of the comprehensive child & adolescent behavioral health services offered by St. Luke’s Hospital and AbbeHealth with members of Iowa Medicaid and DHS leadership. Image Source: Ashley Thompson.

In December, UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital and AbbeHealth leadership  hosted Director Matney and Administrator Eyanson, along with Iowa State Senator Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids), Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) chief of strategic operations Matt Highland and additional key DHS staff. Led by Carol Meade, director of behavioral health services for St. Luke’s Hospital, the group toured the hospital’s Emergency Department and inpatient child & adolescent mental health unit. Throughout the tour, the group met patients, providers, nurses, and management and learned about the positive care coordination efforts and services offered in the hospital, clinics, and home-based settings.

Following the tour, the group joined Michelle Niermann and Mike Heinrich, president & CEO and EVP and CFO, respectively, of UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids, and Kathy Johnson, executive director of the UnityPoint Health – Abbe Mental Health Center, to discuss the current state of inpatient mental health care services and the behavioral health care workforce in Iowa. Ms. Johnson highlighted opportunities for further collaboration and opportunities to streamline efforts between Iowa Medicaid and community mental health centers (CMHC) to meet patient needs.

“We consider the opportunity to serve those with behavioral health needs fundamental to our mission, so it was a privilege to host our state leaders,” said Michelle Niermann. “Listening to our behavioral health service line leaders engage with DHS colleagues and members of the legislature about how we together can better meet the needs of Iowans was a rewarding experience. It is an important reminder that while the systems we need to navigate for our patients are complex, there are good people throughout those systems who are trying hard to ensure that patients are receiving the high-quality care they need.”

Visit to UnityPoint Health – Jones Regional Medical Center Showcases State-of-the-Art Simulation Lab and Immersive Learning Opportunities

Image: Rep. Lee Hein (left) and Iowa DHS & IDPH director Kelly Garcia (right) use a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat of one of the adult simulation mannequins in the Jones Regional Medical Center’s new simulation lab. Image Source: Ashley Thompson.

This week, Iowa DHS and Iowa Department of Public Health director Kelly Garcia and Iowa State Rep. Lee Hein (R-Monticello) visited the new simulation lab on the Jones Regional Medical Center campus in Anamosa. Opened this summer as part of an expanded partnership between the hospital and the Purdue University Global School of Nursing, the lab provides hands-on, immersive learning opportunities for nursing students and hospital staff. The lab incudes two large simulation hospital rooms, along with infant, child and adult simulation mannequins. Director Garcia commended the group for the innovative health system-educational institution partnership and discussed potential future opportunities for collaboration with state agencies for emergency preparedness training exercises.

“Initially, we viewed this as a resource for Purdue Global to train nurses and for our hospital to train our staff,” said Eric Briesemeister, CEO of Jones Regional Medical Center. “Now, however, it’s become obvious that this Center for Healthcare Education and Simulation can not only raise the quality of care that future nurses and current staff provide, it can raise the level of care given throughout Jones County, and beyond.  Having Director Garcia and Representative Hein here to see it firsthand only reinforced our belief that this Center, with the right funding, can be a training hub for a major portion of Eastern Iowa.”

Visit to UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Highlights Current Efforts to Sustain and Expand Maternal Health Services in Rural Iowa

In November, UnityPoint Health – Grinnell and Blank Children’s Hospital leadership hosted Director Matney, Iowa DHS senior advisor Faith Sandberg-Rodriguez, and key Iowa Medicaid program managers for a roundtable discussion focused on maternal health services. Grinnell Regional Medical Center, one of eight “tweener” hospitals in Iowa, serves as the largest hospital and one of only two labor & delivery centers between Des Moines and Iowa City.

Grinnell Regional Medical Center CEO Jennifer Havens, vice president of finance & operations Kyle Wilcox, and president & COO of Blank Children’s Hospital Dr. Steve Stephenson, highlighted the hospital’s current maternity services, future plans for growth, as well as challenges and potential solutions to offering these critical services for the community. Ashley Thompson, director of government & external affairs for UnityPoint Health, discussed legislative and policy opportunities to further support long-term sustainability of labor & delivery services in Iowa.

“It’s clear that our state’s Medicaid leadership is deeply committed to supporting us in our continued work to sustain high-quality maternity care for our patients,” said Jennifer Havens. “We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to discuss maternal health services and the challenges we and so many other Iowa hospitals face in physician and provider recruitment. Today’s discussion was yet another confirmation that we have a strong partner in our Medicaid program.”


For more information about State of Iowa advocacy, legislative, policy and regulatory issues of impact to UnityPoint Health, please contact Ashley Thompson, director of government & external affairs.