New Administrative Staff

Our team is thrilled to have two new staff members! Kassy Kadoun joined us as Finance Associate, and Vanessa Diaz as Administrative Associate earlier this month.

Originally from Shelton, WA, Kassy Kadoun moved to Bellingham in 2015 to attend Western Washington University, where she received her degree in Business Administration with a focus on Management. Kassy has experience working in the fields of administration, finance, and marketing. Most recently, she managed the scheduling, production, and finances at a local branding company.

At North Sound ACH, Kassy will handle all expense reports, payroll processing, and various financial statements, along with assisting in other administrative tasks to support the team. Although she is new to the field of healthcare, she is excited to further her knowledge and experience in the field of finance while learning more about public health.

Vanessa Diaz grew up in the Skagit Valley and is an enrolled Samish Indian Nation tribal member. She earned her degree in Medical Assistant Phlebotomy and has over twenty years experience working in the medical community, supporting the front and back office of medical offices ranging from primary care to specialty clinics. Most recently she worked at the Upper Skagit Tribal Community as the Purchased and Referred Care Clerk. In addition to her work, she is part of the wrestling team board and coaches soccer.

In her role, Vanessa will provide administrative support to staff, senior leadership, and various advisory groups focused on health system transformation initiatives and strategies. Vanessa brings much positive energy with her, and excited to join the team that can make a difference in the communities that have helped shape and mold the person she is today.

Welcome, Kassy and Vanessa!

Kassy Kadoun, Finance Associate; Vanessa Diaz, Administrative Associate

Chief Operating Officer Selected for National Commission

Nicole Willis has been selected to serve on the American Medical Informatics Association’s inaugural Health Informatics Certification Commission. The Commission’s work will expand health informatics certification opportunity for professionals and complement the clinical informatics subspecialty certification.

The 14 member Commission will be responsible for eligibility, examination development, and recertification requirements. Commission members represent different primary health domains, practice settings, and career stages. The Health Informatics Certification Commission is a committee of AMIA that will be autonomous with respect to all certification decisions and operations.

“I am excited about the opportunity to participate in the Health Informatics Certification development process,” shared Nicole. “AMIA is well-positioned to help shape, strengthen, and build leadership capacity in the wide spectrum of health informatics, and I am eager to be part of this inaugural national effort.”

The Commission members bring a broad range of perspectives and significant expertise to their work. They represent individuals who have training in nursing, health informatics, public health, pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, and nutrition.

For more information visit: AMIA Health Informatics Certification Commission:

Project Managers Reflect on Partner Site Visits

Our project managers Lindsay Knaus, Heather McGuinness, and Amanda Robins shared some takeaways from recent partner site visits.

From Lindsay: 

This summer’s site visits provided a unique opportunity to connect with partner organizations and learn more about their work on the ground-level. Throughout July and August, we met with partners and their teams across the North Sound region to learn more about implementation efforts and build relationships. 

Through these visits, we were able to go on tours, meet team members, obtain resources and information used for clients and patients, and connect partners across sectors and counties to improve care coordination efforts. 

I learned first-hand about the unique challenges around transportation for San Juan County partners. I gained a new appreciation around planning events and meetings with partners in rural areas, specifically those who can only be reached by ferry or plane. Navigating the ferries during the summer months gave me an appreciation for the unique challenges around access to care and hospital discharge planning between island and mainland partners.

A key takeaway for me was being able to hear partners success stories and through those, connecting the dots between partners working both across sectors and counties to aid care coordination effort.

This experience was extremely valuable to bring back to our ACH team to determine strategies for supporting partners in their implementation work.

From Heather:

This summer’s site visits were a great opportunity for ACH staff to connect with partner organizations. At each visit, project managers sat down with the team to to learn more about how their work was going related to the Medicaid Transformation Project. Partners were able to ask questions and get clarity on ACH expectations, the reporting process, and where to get access to training and technical assistance. ACH staff were able to get a deeper understanding about partner successes and challenges in implementing strategies.

At many site visits, ACH staff were invited on tours of the facilities, which gave us an opportunity to see the work of partner organizations in action. These tours also gave us the chance to learn about programs outside of the scope of ACH work – for example, WSU Extension’s programs to support agricultural workers in starting their own businesses and supporting farmers’ mental health. 

 One key takeaway was the importance of collaboration: nearly all partners expressed a desire to connect with partners working on similar strategies, both to learn from one another and to strengthen referral partnerships.

From Amanda:

Site visits this summer allowed for a wonderful opportunity for me to meet our partners face-to-face and begin developing a long-term relationship rooted in achieving the goals of Medicaid Transformation together. Partners were wonderfully gracious hosts and were clearly excited about the initiatives they are implementing. Learning more in-depth about the challenges that partners are facing in implementing transformation strategies allowed me to recognize areas for collaboration between partners as well as areas where our whole region needs support. Sharing these insights with the greater ACH team allows us to develop plans to thoughtfully support and engage partners in our region. 

As someone who comes from a direct service background, it was great for me to spend time on site with partners and be reminded of the many lives our healthcare system touches. 

Through getting to know our partners and the specific work they are achieving, I more fully understand the depth and breadth of the work we are undertaking and how to help partners in accomplishing the work, region-wide, together.

Partner Feature: Island Senior Resources Presents at National Meeting

By Lindsay Knaus, Project Manager

Island Senior Resources presented at this year’s All-In: Data for Community Health National Meeting in Baltimore, MD.  This event is intended to bring data sharing pioneers together to share solutions and accelerate progress toward improved health equity.

Island Senior Resources’ director Chasity Smith’s presentation was titled, “Screening for Social Determinants: What’s in a Tool?”

Island Senior Resources, Island County Human Services and Public Health, Island Senior Resources, and WhidbeyHealth are all participating implementation partners with the ACH, working cooperatively on a number of initiatives related to ACH health improvement strategies. Their work has developed into cross-sector collaboration aimed to address service gaps, barriers, and risk factors in order to improve health equity in Island County.

These partners’ goal is to develop a coordinated referral system and social determinants screening tool. The tool includes demographics and nine core measures covering medical, social, and basic needs. The tool acts as both a screener and referral generator, connecting each person with the right resource.  The organizations aim to identify the needs in their community, better understand the causes, connect people with help, and improve health and well-being.

Implementation began with a local primary care clinic as the pilot site, integrating the screening tool into clinical workflows as of Fall 2019. The pilot will be followed by a formal review and process improvement plan.

Chasity’s presentation provided insights for those looking to develop a coordinated screening and referral system across sectors, using collaboration.  It also provided a rural perspective on this process, from the creation and modification of a screening tool, implementation and timeline considerations, and how small projects can be used to leverage the discussion on multi-sector data sharing in rural communities.

Community Engagement Training with the Pomegranate Center

Earlier this month members of our team attended a two-day training with the Pomegranate Center, co-facilitated by Communities of Color Coalition.  The Pomegranate Method provides tools to build collaborative, inclusive, and decisive projects. Our staff learned a process for community planning and decision-making based on productive discussion to drive successful collaboration. Those who attended are eager to use this model in future meetings!

Pomegranate Center believes every community, agency, and company should have teams of trained facilitators who are neutral about what is decided, but fierce about protecting the process. If you would like to learn more, click here to read about training with the Pomegranate Center in Seattle this October.

We Have a Clinical Director!

This summer we officially welcomed Greg Arnold onto our team as Clinical Director.  Greg served on our Program Council as well as participated in past workgroups for the North Sound ACH when he was on staff with the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization.

Greg Arnold grew up in central Wisconsin, earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, his Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University- Seattle, and his Master’s Certificate in Health Administration from the University of North Dakota. He is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and Child Mental Health Specialist, having done clinical work in a wide variety of settings including supportive housing, community outpatient, and integrated care environments. Greg developed and managed clinical programs at Friends of Youth in King County, which promoted the growth of school-based services and supported housing services programs. Most recently he worked as the Integrated Health Analyst at the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization. 

In his role as the Clinical Director Greg will be overseeing health improvement initiatives and support efforts to integrate clinical transformation strategies. Join us in welcoming Greg to the team!


HCA Seeking Provider Participation

The ‘Paying for Value’ Survey is Now Online

The Health Care Authority (HCA) is seeking provider participation in an annual paying for value survey. The survey will help track progress toward the statewide goal of paying for value-based care, rather than paying for volume of care. In a value-based system, payments are based on the health outcomes people experience, rather than paying for each medical transaction.

Because provider success is at the heart of value-based care, provider input is essential. Providers who participate in this survey will provide valuable insight into the challenges they face when considering adopting new payment arrangements. It will also help HCA support providers and the health and wellness community as a whole.

HCA invites a variety of providers across Washington State to participate. This includes hospitals, health systems, clinics, tribal health care, and behavioral health care, and others.

The survey is open until 5:00 pm on Friday, August 30. It is designed to be filled out by an administrative leader, with only one response per organization.

HCA is asking managed care organizations and commercial plans to participate in a similar survey.

To learn more, visit the Paying for value webpage.

Lummi Ceremony for Tibetian Monks

Members of the North Sound ACH team were honored with an invitation to join a special day with Lummi elders, storytellers and singers, and a group of Tibetan monks who had journeyed to Lummi to join in prayers for the earth. It was an amazing day affirming what binds people together, even when their homelands are thousands of miles apart. The messages of compassion, connectedness, and our spiritual relationship to the earth’s wellbeing was both nurturing and inspiring. We are so thankful to Lummi Nation for inviting us onto their land to join in that very special event.

“Attending this event was an incredible experience, and took me several days to fully process the honor, depth, and breadth of how special it was to share. I was humbled and extremely honored to be invited to join the event, and was struck by the history of the space. The recurring messages of compassion and connectedness to our families, communities, and culture was truly special. The healing aspects of the storytelling and singing that crossed cultures created a beautiful, peaceful space.” ~ Tiffany Edlin, North Sound ACH Staff

“Coming in to this experience with little knowledge of what to expect, I was so impacted by the great history and spiritual connection shared. The overwhelming, radical inclusivity we experienced that afternoon will stick with me for quite some time.”  ~ Hillary Thomsen, North Sound ACH Staff

Thank you to Darrell Hillaire and Children of the Setting Sun for this special invitation and their generous hospitality.

We need your voice! A note from Conner Darlington, Board Member.

The Health Care Authority’s Medicaid Transformation project is in full swing, and it’s time for the Board of the North Sound Accountable Community of Health to plan for next steps in our mission to better the health of the people of Lummi Nation, Nooksack Tribe, Samish Indian Nation, Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Upper Skagit Tribe; the communities of Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties.
My unique position on the Board of Directors is focused on lifting up the voices of the people who will be impacted by our decision, with special attention given to communities most impacted by systems of oppression. Referencing Rev. Dr. Barber, I don’t want people to speak for the people, but to let the people speak for themselves! I feel comfortable saying that the dominant culture of this region (and beyond) is for community input in important decision-making to be inauthentic and tokenizing; while I can’t guarantee I will be successful in accomplishing something different, I will strive to with all that I have.
I welcome all who would like to collaborate in this effort.  Please contact me at


Launch of Tribal and Equity Series: Afterthoughts

Sometimes we get feedback after an event that shows the work ahead of us. As we embark on this journey of tribal and equity learning we are not looking for ‘pats on the back’, as much as we are looking for others who see the road ahead and its importance. This was one of those messages, and Ben gave his permission to share it here –

Hello Liz,

Thank you so much for letting us be at the table yesterday. I was awestruck and inspired. Everything about it was wonderful. My subjective experience with the breakout section was very educational. What I got from it was all of the agencies thinking in ways that they could improve their programs that they offer to the communities they support. While I see that as a baby step, I still see it as an effort to move in the same circles. It may be that they just want to continue to justify their organization.

What I was hoping to hear from them was the need to educate their communities in ways that make them self-sufficient rather than dependent on the largesse of the dominate culture. By that I am definitely saying that dominant culture do exactly as the Children of the Setting Sun described. Give them the tools and training so that they can be the doctors, lawyers and chief bottle washers. Not some bastardized version of what currently exist.

Those agencies and organization should be assisting in helping change behavior not culture. I have heard tribal people say it over and over again.  We do not need not need to be taught how to be white. We need their expertise at training to become masters of own destiny, not training to be apart of a system that has failed us all too often. Othering and Belonging are defining terms. Targeted Universalism is a shift in the way we currently operate and must be instituted to usher in the new paradigm.

Just my thinking. And once again thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to actually focus on solutions rather than holding up a system of principles that leaves us where we are, with a few new shiny objects.

Ben Young

Vice Chair Communities of Color Coalition

Chair North Puget Sound Conference on Race