Effective June 1 - Sister Kenny, Courage Center unite to provide improvements

The official merger of Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute/Allina Health and Courage Center and the launch of Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute occurred June 1. That’s when Courage Center employees became Allina Health employees. New logos began to replace existing logos of both Courage Center and Sister Kenny. The full brand rollout takes place over the next 12 to 18 months.

Organizational leaders outlined the changes for Access Press. Penny Wheeler, MD, chief clinical officer for Allina Health, said “By knitting together all the segments of care, we will create a unique model that will make a difference in the communities we serve.”

Wheeler added that Allina Health is excited to partner with Courage Center because of the opportunity to meld two complementary medical models into one stronger model. “Allina Health is already good at responding to illness and critical care but to really be an effective healthcare system, for the future we have to keep people healthy,” said Wheeler. “Of course, we’ll still have to respond to illness, but keeping people as healthy as possible is the goal in this merger.”

Jan Malcolm was chief executive officer of Courage Center. She is now president of the Courage Kenny Foundation and vice president of public affairs for Allina Health. “As we say, legal merger and integration are two different things,” Malcolm said. “To be honest and realistic, the integration of the two companies could take 24 to 36 months before the public will see much change in service delivery.”

“The joining of the two cultures, Allina’s Sister Kenny, and Courage Center, hopefully the similarities in missions and the shared commitment to innovation and doing things in a client-centered way will help the knitting of the two organizations,” Malcolm said. One of the most attractive pieces of the merger is bringing together the medical pieces of a person’s life with social supports that many people with disabilities desperately need in order to stay healthy, and have active and healthy lives. Courage Kenny wants to be recognized for helping people with disabilities maintain good health, save money and bring together everything to improve quality of life. The merger also creates a stronger organization to serve the community for the long term.

Malcolm spoke about the important differences in services and that these competencies are complementary. Both organizations had distinctive areas of specialization. Courage Center enjoyed success in community-based, one-off, innovative, often very personalized rehabilitation programming.

Sister Kenny was successful in clinical rehabilitation specialties. Those specialties are in acute care and more about medical best practices, centered on evidence-based medical results. The combination of the two will make a better overall organization for the community without competition over reimbursements.

“We will not be trying to force round pegs into square holes. We will keep what we have been successful in and we will combine, learn and connect the programs or specialties together to make an overall stronger organization and more financially stable,” Malcolm said. She also spoke about maintaining innovative processes. What will also continue is Courage Center’s history of experimentation with new programs like ABLE, startup of new clinics like Healthcare Homes and continued development of new programs.

Members of the disability community can be assured and comforted in knowing that Courage Center’s tradition of very important and successful advocacy work will continue with Malcolm in her new public affairs role.

The newly merged foundations are now the Courage Kenny Foundation. It will be the key to continuing a history of innovation, supporting nonmedical services, advocacy work, continuum of care, customization and experimentation and better ways of doing things, to invest in existing programs and services to improve the health of the clients served.

“Making the whole thing revolve around what’s best for the client and not what’s best for the provider is the goal of this merger,” Malcolm said. ‘’The artificial financial wall has been removed and what is the best level of care for the client or patient is what will be our driving influence, now.”

“The spirit of Courage Center is not going anywhere,” said John Tschida, Courage Center’s longtime vice president of public policy, “When we first started talking to Allina Health there were a number of non-negotiables. We want the flexibility to start new programs, like the independent living skills we started in the late 1960s and the residence we started in the 1970s, more recently the fitness center and the Healthcare Homes. ‘They get it’, that many things have to happen for people with disabilities to stay healthy and that goes way beyond medical services. I don’t think there’s any risk that what Courage Center has been doing will be over-medicalized either.”

Sister Kenny/Allina has 30 clinics and Courage Center has six. Those will remain for now as Courage Kenny facilities, at both historic campuses. As the organization evolves, its geographic reach will broaden and longer-term changes are possible. The changes will be determined through strategic planning.“Part of potential opportunities are to make more of the Courage services geographically more accessible to more of the community,” said Malcolm.

Access Press has more information on the merger on the newspaper’s website and will continue to monitor the merger and its effects.