A Cass County legislator is looking to improve access to health care for residents in his county.
On Nov. 1, Missouri Rep. Chris Molendorp assumed the duties as the executive director of ConnectCass, a nonprofit corporation designed to address the health needs of residents.
“We want healthy people to contribute in our community, and the trends over the last five years show Cass County is slipping,” Molendorp said. “We want to identify ways that we can empower Cass Countians to address these needs and reverse the trends.”
Molendorp said he has decided not to run for reelection in 2014.
In his new role, Molendorp’s first step has been engaging Cass County residents to talk about their health care needs in the county.
“We’re going to hone in on the top three or four needs in Cass County,” Molendorp said. “ConnectCass can be the organization that collaborates to develop programming, steer grant money, raise money to fill in the gaps of these unmet needs.”
Molendorp said Cass County is above state averages for the percentage of residents who smoke, suffer from diabetes, and who are obese.
“We’re trying to be a collaborative, go-to organization in Cass County that connects providers, the hospitals, and the county’s health department to the needs in this community in terms of overall health and wellness of every Cass Countian,” he said.
Molendorp is currently working with several Cass County health care organizations, including the Cass County Health Department and Cass Regional Medical Center, to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment. ConnectCass is partnering with Vince Vandehaar from VVV Research & Development Inc, an independent health research and consulting firm from Olathe, Kan., who has been retained to assist with the report.
Molendorp believes the results of this assessment will provide guidance to address current and future Cass County health needs.
“It’s going to give us a good snapshot of where we stand today in Cass County,” he said.
When the report is done, Molendorp said it will be distributed to the hospitals in the county, the health department and school nurses.
“It’s going to identify the things that the citizens say we need,” Molendorp said. “These are the sort of things we need to identify before we direct funding. It’s not something one doctor, one hospital or one person can do. It’s got to be a collaborative effort.”
According Molendorp, Vandehaar is a veteran health care consultant who has conducted 43 similar assessments around the United States.
To gather the necessary community health information, a paper and online survey has been created to garner input.
The survey features a series of questions pertaining to health care strengths in the community, accessibility to health resources, attitudes about wellness, and lifestyle questions.
This month, 1,000 randomly-selected Cass County residents will be mailed a paper survey.
Other individuals interested in participating in the survey may do so online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/chna_cass. Completed surveys must be received by Friday, Feb. 21.
Additionally, Molendorp hosted a town hall meeting at the Harrisonville Community Center Dec. 17, 2013 to allow participants to share and discuss community health needs, priorities and the steps needed to improve community health. All county residents and business leaders were encouraged to attend.
“We talked a lot about the lack of mental health providers in Cass County,” he said.” It’s a huge problem.”
More than 40 people attended the meeting.
“It’s about finding out what the true needs are in the community in terms of access to providers, transportation to and from a clinic, or hospital visit,” Molendorp said of the ConnectCass vision. “It’s about making sure that we can leverage relationships and connect people in the community to fill in those gaps whether it be pediatric dental care in the south part of the county or assisting a school nurse with a screening program.”
ConnectCass stemmed from CHART, Cass County’s former Community Health Awareness and Resource Team, and receives oversight from a governing board chaired by Cass County Health Department Director Tiffany Klassen and a 20-member advisory council.
Molendorp replaces Kate Maricle who held the executive director position since April 2012.
“I have a really good, holistic overall view of all of the different parts in our health and wellness system,” Molendorp said of his experience.
In addition to serving as a state representative for the past six years, Molendorp has served in various community capacities, including the board of directors with Hope Haven and Research Belton Hospital (Belton Regional Medical Center).
He is a 1987 graduate of Raymore-Peculiar High School and earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1991.
A native of Cass County, Molendorp has served for the past 17 years as president of a family-owned insurance agency.
After being elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2008, Molendorp has served on the Oral Health Issue Development Committee, the Joint Committee on Missouri HealthNet, and as the chairman for the House Health Insurance Committee.