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Avera Health receives $4M grant to improve maternal outcomes

The Helmsley Behavioral Health Center near 69th St. and Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls.
Jackie Hendry
The Helmsley Behavioral Health Center near 69th St. and Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls.

Avera Health is one of four nationwide recipients of a grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to improve outcomes for mothers and their newborns.

The $4 million in grant funds will be targeted to address medical issues like low birthweight and infant mortality. The money will also expand telehealth options.

Kimberlee McKay, clinical vice president of Avera’s OB-GYN services, said accessibility to maternal health options is critical.

“This particular grant is funded to encourage partnerships among health systems and state Medicaid offices and departments of health and communities," McKay said. "What it allows us to do is have a much more integrated approach to pre-natal care in terms of our ability to create access around maternal health.”

McKay said the new investment can also expand healthcare staffing.

“Where we are using it is investing in people to do the work," McKay said. "So, care coordination is a big piece of it, community health workers is another piece of it.”

McKay said in isolated communities, the distance to a care team plays a critical role in a patient’s outcome.

“So, people who live in rural areas, they tend to seek pre-natal care later," McKay said. "We know there’s increased rates of food insecurity, poverty, tobacco use, those kinds of things, and what happens in a small town is all of these factors that create barriers to getting access to any kind of healthcare are multiplied, because there aren’t enough people to address it.”

McKay also said it’s important to have a voice from inside the community to help define local solutions.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture