(Merrill, WI)- The Wisconsin Office of Rural Health (WORH) has selected Ascension Good Samaritan Hospital as the 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Rural Health Award in recognition of the facilities innovative approach to help those in their rural community, according to a news release.

Two of Ascension Good Samaritan’s programs and the effort to provide a convenient home for seven community resource agencies were specifically highlighted in the nomination submitted by the Lincoln County Health Department for their contribution to rural health

The Merrill Community Paramedic Program is a partnership with the City of Merrill Fire Department in which local paramedics provide free follow-up visits for recently-discharged patients who suffer from medical conditions. And, the Tooth Fairy Fund financially assists those who present with tooth pain at the emergency department to receive treatment at a local federally qualified dental clinic nearby.

“Ascension Good Samaritan provides our rural community with passion, dedication, and leadership to make the City of Merrill and Lincoln County a healthier place to live,” said Shelley Hersil, Health Officer with the Lincoln County Health Department. “The facility and its dedicated clinicians and associates have been invaluable when working with their patients, stakeholders and organizations in the community.”

The award also recognizes the hospital’s efforts in addressing health priorities in their community, igniting community coalitions on oral health, nutrition, mental health, and substance abuse.

“Despite facing a number of challenges, rural facilities in Wisconsin are making a difference for the communities they serve,” said Kevin Jacobson, Rural Communities Initiatives Program Manager, WORH. “Ascension Good Samaritan is deserving of this award and is an outstanding example for other communities who strive to develop innovative programming to meet the health care needs of rural populations.”

In addition, after seven community non-profit agencies who were trying to fundraise to do major repairs on an old building in downtown Merrill, Ascension Good Samaritan led an effort to utilize unused space on the hospital campus to create the Menard Resource Center. It is now home to the Merrill Community Food Pantry, St Vincent de Paul, Community Action Program, United Way of Merrill, Comunidad Hispania, Community Blood Center of Wisconsin and Bridge Community Dental Center. Each of these agencies resides in the Menard Center on an In-Kind basis providing a financial savings for increased outreach benefits to the community.

“The Menard Resource Center has proved to be a great fit for Ascension Good Samaritan and the community, “said Jane Bentz, Director of Community Outreach and Volunteer Services at Ascension Good Samaritan. “It took the combined efforts of many to make this benefit for our community a reality.”

WORH is highlighting the award recipients as part of the celebration of Rural Health Day, a day that highlights the unique challenges rural communities face.

Ascension Good Samaritan was recognized in the organizational category by WORH. Other honorees this year included a community volunteer from Ladysmith in the individual category and an Adams Friendship area grocery store in the program category.

“Implementing and operating these programs take a dedicated team of people who need to fully understand the needs of our community,” said Dawn Gapko, Chief Administrative Officer, Ascension Good Samaritan. “I am so proud of our associates and clinicians who join hand in hand with our community resource partners to provide exceptional services and results for those in need in our community.”

An award ceremony attended by Ascension clinicians, associates and volunteers along with community partners and area elected officials was held on Thursday, November 1, in advance of this year’s Rural Health Day which falls on November 15.