Throughout January, DrPH student Beth Keeney kept an eye on the spread of COVID-19 in Italy. When she told her supervisor at LifeSpring Health Systems that community spread in the United States was likely, she was appointed chair of the company’s COVID-19 response.
“Once a case of community spread was announced on the west coast, we announced the formation of the response committee and began formally meeting,” said Keeney, senior vice president for community health initiatives and primary care at LifeSpring Health Systems.
Located across 11 counties in southern Indiana, LifeSpring provides comprehensive primary care, behavioral health care, and addiction treatment to more than 12,000 patients annually. Working with her team, Keeney has led the transition for LifeSpring to be fully responsive during this pandemic.
“Most importantly, all services are still operational, except for high risk services, such as group therapy,” she said. “We transitioned most of behavioral healthcare services to telehealth in less than a week.”
Keeney, and several others, also developed a seamless online enrollment and intake process in less than a week.
By facilitating discussions in the community and among service providers, Keeney helped to develop a plan to address health issues among individuals experiencing homelessness. She deployed a mobile unit for providing primary care services and to areas where individuals experiencing homelessness were camped. Additionally, Keeney worked with others to establish a plan for a seclusion shelter for homeless individuals.
As the state begins to reopen, Keeney, and several other key leaders, have developed a risk stratification for moving patients out of telehealth. They are also currently implementing the reintegration plan for services based on community epidemiological data and risk stratification of patients and staff.
Keeney also handles the influx of information from local, national and international agencies to develop operational policy and procedures. She has maintained consistent and daily communications to staff and board members.
“One of the things I have been most proud of is how effectively our team has functioned,” she said. “We started meeting twice weekly and communicating throughout the day. I have been working with information technology to maintain an intranet site to have a single place for relevant information. We have been able to rapidly receive information from health departments and then process and operationalize the information to inform our practices. I feel confident based on how well our team has functioned, if there are changes in epidemiological data or flare ups, we know what we have to do to handle changes in our practices.”
When access to personal protective equipment (PPE) dried up, Keeney worked to secure PPE and developed a plan to become self-sustainable with PPE. When the recommendations for cloth masks changed, within 24 hours Keeney’s team sourced almost 600 masks for staff and residents of the residential facilities, reducing the demand for procedure masks. Keeney’s team discovered how to safely sanitize procedure masks using an autoclaving process, and quickly ordered additional autoclaves.
“We are lucky to be located near the University of Louisville, which had a Batelle decontamination machine. They have assisted with N95 decontamination, reducing our need for additional PPE supply,” said Keeney.
Keeney credits her DrPH program with providing professional connections locally and globally who have helped inform her response.
“I have been able to access data, plans, and professionals I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Timely and accurate information has been critical during this time. The DrPH in Global Health Leadership has provided me with a solid understanding of global health systems. Understanding why certain levers and policies may be utilized has been helpful in navigating the landscape around COVID-19.”