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There are so many reasons to celebrate the terrific health care offered in the Coulee Region.

Access to first-class caregivers is a key reason many of us call this home.

Our health care institutions contribute greatly to quality of life, economic development and employment.

But there’s another factor we need to consider — a factor aimed at improving community health.

The CEOs of Gundersen and Mayo-Franciscan met recently with the Tribune’s editorial board, and our community should be thankful for another attribute.

In a word: collaboration.

It’s clear Dr. Scott Rathgaber of Gundersen and Dr. Paul Mueller of Mayo take pride in the community collaboration their hospitals and their people contribute to.

Here’s just one example: The Alliance to HEAL — Halting the Effects of Addiction Locally.

This initiative doesn’t just involve one hospital — or two, for that matter. The La Crosse Community Foundation, La Crosse County Health Department, Mayo and Gundersen have teamed up to lead the fight against opioid addiction in the Coulee Region.

The four lead organizations have pledged more than $400,000 in the next three years to wage the fight.

It’s a fight that takes community resources.

More than 80 stakeholders participate, working in nine work groups, to aid people with substance-abuse disorders.

As Rathgaber says, it takes a village — and the alliance includes people who work with people struggling with addiction every day. You’ll find hospital CEOs, legislators, judges, mayors taking part.

If one hospital or the other considered this initiative a competition, we’re convinced it wouldn’t be nearly as successful.

And, there are signs the initiative has had a positive impact.

In 2016, 19 people died from overdose deaths involving opioids.

In 2017, that number fell to eight.

This is not a declaration of victory. But it’s clear that high-level, collaborative leadership that focuses on results, not credit, has helped make our community safer and healthier.

Dr. Chris Eberlein, an ER doctor at Gundersen says the improvement came after education efforts introducing prescribers to alternatives to prescribing opioids. Eberlein is co-chair of the La Crosse County Heroin and Other Illicit Drug Task Force.

Health, of course, comes in many forms.

Do you have a stable home, a safe neighborhood?

Look at the neighborhoods surrounding Mayo and Gundersen, and you’ll see more signs of collaborative leadership for improvement.

Each health care institution has adopted schools and neighborhoods, providing resources, expertise and volunteer spirit to build a stronger community.

There has been widespread teamwork to end homeless in our community — and that’s paying off, too.

That initiative has involved dozens of organizations committed to providing shelter, stability and safety.

We’re blessed with many community resources. But, to truly make a difference, there needs to be focus.

In many cases, that’s where out two health-care institutions factor in.

Yes, these are competing businesses.

But each provides focused, compassionate and collaborative leadership to improve the health of our community.

We’re healthier for it.

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(1) comment

duster

Color me confused---competing headline "Mayo closing three residential recovery centers." How does that help address addiction and mental health needs in the community?

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