New "medical neighborhoods" could provide better care

An innovative program from the Wyoming Institute of Population Health is giving patients better health care at a lower cost, institute officials say. The institute, which is part of Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, has spent the past year-and-a-half establishing a series of "medical neighborhoods" throughout the state. These "neighborhoods" are highly coordinated networks of hospitals, pharmacies, primary-care physicians and specialists. "If your care is well-coordinated, and services are not being duplicated, and you aren't getting more services than you need, your care is going to be better, and it is going to cost less," said Phyllis Sherard with the institute.

Institute officials estimate the program will save Wyoming patients $33 million in health-care costs over three years. The neighborhoods aren't necessarily confined to a specific city and can even cross state lines, Sherard said. "It's not a nice, neat circle or a nice, neat box. The neighborhoods can look fairly gerrymandered if you draw it out on a map," she said. At the center of these neighborhoods is the patient-centered medical home. District funding is provided to districts as a block grant from the School Foundation fund, and the footnote applies only to the separate sources of funding for the state Board of Education and the Department of Education.

Districts are given broad authority to expend state funds as they see fit, Hill said. Still, some school district officials have sought a legal opinion before exploring the standards after the footnote passed in March banning them statewide. Dave Applegate, chairman of the Natrona County School District Board of Trustees, said some board members and staff members in Natrona County wanted to discuss the Next Generation standards. Before talks started, the board asked its attorney, Kathleen Dixon, for an opinion on whether local boards could review or adopt some or all of the Next Generation standards as part of the local curriculum, Applegate said. He declined to explain the nature of the legal opinion.

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