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Throwback Thursday: Evangeline Home Health, The “Little Home Health Agency That Could”

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Evangeline Home Health is a 501c (3), private, not-for-profit home health agency created in 1972 by the Evangeline Parish Council on Aging in Ville Platte, La. The agency was established to meet the unmet needs of the rural parish and provide “Home Health Aid, Nutrition, Facilitation of Heath, Adult Education, and Transportation”.

From this simple mission statement in the early 1970s, Evangeline Home Health has grown from a small rural agency into one of the largest single agencies in the state serving the urban areas of Lake Charles, Lafayette, and all of the Acadiana Region.

Foundation: Nursing and Public Health
In the early days of our heritage, Ms. Deanie McWhorter, RN, provided the leadership and vision that would carry our organization through the formative years. Ms. Deanie’s training and experience at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, where she excelled in surgery and nursing, gave her the medical background to work with local doctors on complex cases. As Evangeline began to grow, Ms. Deanie hired nurses that were like herself: well trained, competent, energetic and devoted to serving others. Evangeline gained the trust of physicians and families around all of the Acadiana Region. Ms. Deanie helped form the organization that would become the Home Care Association of Louisiana and served on the original board of directors. She was recently inducted into the Louisiana Home Health Hall of Honor along with her husband and partner, Edward “Ted” McWhorter.

Formation: Research, Education, Innovation
In 1993, Melicia “Lisi” Coleman, RN, BSN joined Evangeline as a visiting nurse after graduating from McNeese University School of Nursing and working as a floor nurse at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Lisi began to help in areas of administration, compliance, quality, and community education. It was also during this time that huge changes in home health reimbursement were taking place and many agencies nationally were going under. Lisi worked with the leadership team that emerged from this crucible of change including: the current Administrator, Bekki Miller, RN; Cindy Reavill, RN, Director of Nursing; Nicky Guillory, RN, Director of Operations; and Wendy Welch, RN, Assistant Director of Nursing. The average tenure of this leadership is over 20 years with Evangeline and service to the community.

Over the past 45 years, Evangeline has always had a drive toward innovation and research. This emphasis led to a startling and meaningful discovery affecting Public Health in Acadiana. One of the early research achievements of Evangeline Home Health was the discovery of a heretofore unknown gene pool of Tay Sachs disease in a small French community in Northern Acadia Parish. A baby with Tay-Sachs disease appears healthy at birth and seems to be developing normally for a few months. Symptoms generally appear by 6 months of age. While symptoms vary from one child to the next, there is always a slowing down of development. Gradually, Tay-Sachs children lose motor skills and mental functions. Over time, the child becomes blind, deaf, mentally retarded, paralyzed and non-responsive to the environment. Tay-Sachs children usually die by age 5. Together with Tulane Medical School and geneticist Dr. Emmanuel Schapiro Evangeline nurses tested over 1600 persons over a two-week period, and identified a carrier rate in excess of 5 percent in the area. This effort was noted nationally in Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and national evening news programs. This effort was done at no cost to the community or the patients.
In 1996 Lisi was working on a Quality Team at Evangeline that was looking into Length of Stay for a certain subgroup of patients. They found a common issue in a majority of these patients: Low Vision and the inability to take care of activities of daily living. Over the next five years, Lisi developed the HomeSight® Program, a turnkey training program for home health agencies to address low vision rehabilitation in the home. The HomeSight® Program was marketed nationally and culminated in over 100 locations providing the HomeSight® Program by 2004.

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Future: Strategic Partnerships, Alignment, and Advocacy
In 2011 Lisi assumed the duties of CEO of Evangeline Home Health and is the current President of the Home Care Association of Louisiana.

Leading a team of incredible professionals Lisi has added technology, national consulting, and therapy leadership to Evangeline. The agency is forging a future with a forward-thinking strategic plan implemented in 2011 and continues to evolve over the last six years. Guy Davis, LCDC, LBSW was added to the leadership team as the Regional Director of Strategic Initiatives to discover new partnership opportunities to expand our ability to meet the needs of our patients and the medical community. Through this imperative, we have developed collaborations and relationships with area physicians and other healthcare entities for expansion of wellness programs, transitional care, medication administration for assisted living facilities, chronic disease management, end of life care and in-home aid and attendants for Veterans.
Evangeline Home Health recently joined the VNAA becoming the only free-standing not-for-profit agency in Louisiana to become a Visiting Nurse Association member. VNAA is a national trade association that supports, promotes and advocates for mission-driven providers of home health, hospice and palliative care. VNAA’s members provide cost-effective and compassionate home health and hospice care to the nation’s most vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Some of the most recent accomplishments include being awarded highest marks in Quality (four stars) and Patient Satisfaction (five stars) by Medicare. Having a four-star rating in Quality ranks in the top 25 percent of home health agencies in the nation. Furthermore, during the last year, Evangeline cared for over 1000 patients throughout the service area. From humble beginnings in Evangeline Parish to a multiple-parish, multiple-award-winning agency, Evangeline truly is the “Home Health Agency That Could”!

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