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The summer 2021 Partner Retreat was one of our most important yet, as North Sound ACH and partners embark on a new journey together. When North Sound ACH was first established and united more than 60 partner organizations together under the Medicaid Transformation Project (MTP), that way of collaborating was new too.

Our focus for the summer 2021 retreat was to share bright spots over the last year, and introduce new projects and a future framework, particularly a set of agreements for a collaborative action network. 

Attendees shared many wonderful stories of innovation and silver linings, such as the mobilization of telehealth at the beginning of the pandemic. A rep from Planned Parenthood said they had been talking about implementing telehealth for two years, but when COVID hit, they were able to enact the technology in nine days, with the help of North Sound ACH.

From the post-event survey, the majority agreed that collaboration and sharing of bright spots in small groups was the highlight of the first day. Participants shared that hearing from other organizations about their projects helped them feel connected, hearing about the happiness created when we serve others even during challenging times.

Christine Sundholm from Ideal Option said collaboration is what she finds most exciting, “pushing” herself to find collaborations where she may not usually look for it. They have begun working with Safeway as a way to reduce barriers and get their addiction treatment services to folks.

Rosalinda Guillen from Community 2 Community has been working in Whatcom and Skagit counties to bring attention to issues impacting farmworkers and their families for decades, and said having people of color working at and leading North Sound ACH was important for her and the Promotoras working on the ground to feel comfortable reaching out and collaborating.

On August 11, North Sound ACH also introduced a new learning and knowledge platform to accompany resources on our website. Through a tour of the site, partners saw the start of a curated library of resources, an interactive and participatory site to explore and discover new knowledge. This site is open for anyone to browse and suggest resources to build the library!

The second day we dove into the proposed set of agreements for the next stage in our collaborative action network, what we’re referring to as a regional compact. Liz Baxter, North Sound ACH, Allan Fischer, United Healthcare, Glenn Puckett, Delta Dental, and Ben Young, C3 Coalition, led a discussion telling the story of where the ACH started, the Medicaid Transformation Project (MTP), and more than 18 months planning next steps into the future.

The compact, shared in draft form, includes a set of commitments, guiding principles, and our framework for creating change. Small group discussions followed about the proposed agreement, and surfaced questions about next steps from attendees.

Many attendees were excited for a path to continue their work in equity. Partners want some assurance that the things they work on are the things that are valued by people accessing services, and they want to look for new ways to bring the ‘table’ to others, instead of only inviting others to a table that already exists.

Others asked how this could help create support for regional partners working in similar areas, for example Community Resource Paramedics in fire and EMS departments. Workforce capacity came up quite a bit — reflecting how much workloads have increased due to COVID-19, and organizations are feeling stretched to commit staff to new areas.

Everyone wants to know about funding — what will it look like without the structure of the MTP? 

Partners shared their own stories of how North Sound ACH was able to provide quick financial support for COVID-19 response, how smaller agencies and organizations often seen as “statistically insignificant” to a lot of funders feel recognized and supported by North Sound ACH, and partners want access to flexible, responsive funding to continue.

While partners asked about sustainability of funding, this is what the Board has grappled with for 18 months, resulting in approval of the future state (shared with partners in February 2021.) We know how critical discussions are around available dollars, but there is a lot that has been accomplished with no funds – the distribution of two million masks for example. 

Our belief is that a regional entity that is focused on capacity building, bringing partners together to learn and act, and bringing investors to the region is a compelling role for North Sound ACH. Liz asked partners for patience around the funding question, which we know is hard for everyone. But until we know what partners are willing to do, and have the capacity to take on, it’s hard to talk about dollars. Dollars alone won’t fill empty positions or help ease the burden of stressed staffing.

This fall there will be one-on-one meetings with each interested organization to talk about what happens next as we look toward 2022. We’re no longer captive in the MTP project box, but there are opportunities ahead in partnership with the Health Care Authority and the Department of Health – but like the past five years, the ACH doesn’t do the work alone, it is in partnership with you.  

New and current partners are encouraged to set up a meeting with North Sound ACH leadership to ask questions about the compact and learn about the different levels in which they can be involved.

We ended our session on August 11 with a poem that was shared by Candice Wilson, Executive Director of the Lhaq’temish Foundation. Powerful words, pushing us to not just say what we are committed to, but to actually show our commitments in actions as we look forward. We’ll share it here, and hope you will join us on the next phase of our journey toward making North Sound a region where all community members feel they are nourished, connected, safe and can experience well-being. 

We look forward to next steps with you!

Tribal Relations of the North Sound Accountable Community of Health

Candice Wilson – Lhaq’temish Foundation

How accountable are you as a partner?
To foster change, to be the catalyst of hope and prosperity
To create space to grow, to be a trusted convenor
Do you acknowledge Coast Salish People? Or do you just say you do? 
Do you know where the Lhaq’temish territory is? Or do you even know who the Lhaq’temish people are?
Can you name the eight tribes of the North Sound? Or do you just know some of the tribes?
Are you a catalyst for change in Tribal communities? Or do you just think you are?
Do you invest in sharing resources with Tribal communities? Or do you just work with what you got?
Do you know about any of the elevating or emerging issues in Tribal communities? Or do you just wait for someone else to bring it up?
Do you foster informed action with Tribal communities? Or do you wait for them to do something?
Do you build capacity with Tribal communities? Or do you just connect within your network?
Here’s how you can be that change, because being different makes the difference:
Acknowledge Lhaq’temish territory
Since time immemorial, Lhaq’temish people are people of the sea
Honor Tribal sovereignty
And Upper Skagit
Treaty Rights
Point Elliott Treaty
The Treaty of Mukilteo
Sharing resources
Government to Government
The trust responsibility is between the United States and Tribal Nations
Civil society
Self-governance, self-determination, and sovereignty
Elevating and emerging issues
National Congress of American Indians
U.S. Department of Interior
Informed action
Civic engagement
Tribal endorsements
Local elections
Building capacity
Northwest Washington Indian Health Board
Northwest Indian College
Northwest Indian College Foundation
Lummi Community Financial Development Institution
White Swan Environmental
Children of the Setting Sun Productions
Lhaq’temish Foundation
What will these outcomes be?
Targeted Universalism
We belong
Restore health and wellness in Tribal communities, and revitalize the teachings and traditions of the people
Che Shesh Whe Wheleq Sen* 
Hy’shqe Siam**
Thank you

*”we come from survivors of the great flood” in Xwlemi Chosen (Lummi language)
**Thank you, respected people” in Xwlemi Chosen