The mission of the Center for Rural Health Innovation is to "employ new and emerging health technologies to improve access to quality health care in rural communities".
The Center for Rural Health Innovation (CRHI) was founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in the state of North Carolina in 2010. The founding Board included Steve North, MD MPH as Chair, Dr. Dan Barron, PhD as Vice Chair, Amanda K Martin as Treasurer, Lynda Kinnane, MPH as Secretary, and Keith Holtsclaw, FACHE. The express purpose of CRHI is to “employ new and emerging health technologies to improve access to quality health care in rural communities”.
Before the formal organization of CRHI, work had already begun on the Health-e-Schools program. Graham Children’s Health Services (now PATH) acted as an incubator, offering grant management support and an umbrella for the fledgling program to grow under with significant support from Suzette Renfro and Amy Sheele.
Dr. Steve North began working on the MY Health-e-Schools program in 2007. Named MY for Mitchell-Yancey counties, the MY was later dropped as the program expanded geographically. After developing an initial plan as a fellow in the Jim Bernstein Rural Health Leaders program, Steve raised $45,000 in planning funds from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. These funds were used to conduct a comprehensive community assessment and further develop the overall plan that proved critical in raising the funds for project implementation. Beginning in 2009, the MY Health-e-Schools program and its partners successfully raised $620,000 for equipment purchases, received $237,000 for operating expenses, and were awarded a 3-year state grant of $43,000 annually from August 2012 through August 2015.
The first full time employee, Executive Director Amanda Martin, was hired in August 2011. Health-e-Schools then began a telehealth pilot program in three schools in September 2011. The successful pilot led to additional funding to expand to all the schools in Mitchell County and all but two in Yancey, as they had School Health Centers. These fourteen sites are the core of the Health-e-Schools program to this day.
In 2013, funding from the Duke Endowment, in collaboration with Mission Health Foundation, allowed Health-e-Schools to expand to McDowell County schools. The funding also allowed the development of a vetted process for successful selection and implementation of school-telehealth sites. This process has been used many times over the following years and has been shared widely.
2014 saw the addition of several McDowell sites and the first six sites in Burke County. As of 2022, the Health-e-Schools program has been expanded to 77 schools, which includes K-12 students, early colleges and community colleges in Western North Carolina, another 42 schools in Eastern North Carolina, and five other counties within North Carolina are in the development phase.
The Center for Rural Health Innovation has also opened two community health clinics. After several years of planning and attempts to find funding and a reasonable, sustainable structure for the program, the Tipton Hill Clinic finally opened in early 2017. Thanks to a generous donation through a local couple’s estate, the Outland Family Clinic in the Ebbs Chapel community was opened in 2021. Within these clinics, area residents can receive acute care, such as cold, flu, strep and COVID tests. They can also be seen for minor injuries rather than having to visit urgent care centers, which helps to lower their costs. Issues relating to diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, and anxiety can also be treated at the clinic.
Health-e-Corrections is another recent addition of The Center for Rural Health Innovation. CRHI began providing care to the corrections population in April 2020.
Thank You to Our Funders and Partners!
American Academy of Pediatrics
Appalachian Regional Commission
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation
Blue Ridge Regional Hospital Foundation
Children’s Health Fund
Community Foundation of Burke County
Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
Gateway Wellness Foundation
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
High Country United Way
Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Mission Health Foundation
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
North Carolina Office of Rural Health
PATH, Partners Aligned Toward Health (previously Graham Children’s Health Services of Toe River)
Red Nose Day
Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation
Samsung Hope for Children
USDA/Rural Utilities Service
Western North Carolina Bridge Foundation