Keeping healthcare accessible in rural South Dakota

November 22, 2022

This paid piece is sponsored by SDN Communications.

Horizon Health Care operates 32 clinics in 22 communities throughout South Dakota, providing essential healthcare to rural residents. SDN Communications and its members want to ensure that Horizon can continue this important work.

SDN and nine of its member companies have committed to donating $22,000 in related grant funds to the upcoming Horizon Health Foundation Giving Tuesday fundraiser. Horizon has set a goal of $30,000 for Giving Tuesday, which takes place on November 29th. Giving Tuesday is a global movement that harnesses the power of philanthropy around the world.

Tracy Pardy, executive director of the foundation, said Horizon is asking donors from each of the 22 communities it serves to join Club22, which represents a commitment to give $22 a month through 2023. The first new Club22 donor in each of the 22 communities will unlock the match of $1,000 from SDN and its nine member companies.

All proceeds collected will help remove barriers to care such as transportation, availability of cancer screening and affordability of spending on behavioral, medical and dental health care for patients in need, Pardy said.

Horizon’s clinics treat more than 27,000 patients with more than 110,000 patient visits each year. Of these patients, 8,400 are children and 850 are veterans.

The communities served by SDN and its member companies overlap with Horizon Health Care’s communities, making this a perfect partnership, said Ryan Punt, CEO of SDN Communications.

“SDN’s position as the leading connectivity provider for many of the Horizon communities made this an easy decision,” he said. “We want to help remove any barriers that exist for people who need access to the healthcare services that Horizon offers.”

For Eric Kahler, manager of the West River Cooperative Telephone Co. in Bison, the decision to fund it was an easy one. Like so many of SDN’s service areas, Bison is home to one of Horizon’s community clinics.

“For our community, our closest medical facility that would have a doctor is typically 45 to 50 miles away,” he said. “I’m just thinking about what my life would have been like…if it wasn’t for this clinic.”

Instead of a 50-mile drive for a referral or a minor health issue, the local clinic allows residents to receive timely and more personal treatment right in their hometown.

“It’s important to have the clinic here in Bison,” said Kahler.

Pardy said the connectivity provided by SDN member companies makes Horizon Health Care’s work possible. Whether it’s helping a patient in a border community connect to a doctor in Sioux Falls via telemedicine, or providing reliable availability for employees while they’re on the job, SDN’s services are critical to Horizon’s work.

“We’re in areas where we have maybe 300 people and the nearest hospital is maybe two hours away,” Pardy said. “A reliable, high-speed connection means a rancher in one of these communities can telemedicine to a specialist hundreds of miles away without having to travel long distances. SDN Communications and its members have the most extensive fiber optic network in the region.”

It helps fulfill Horizon’s commitment to “Keeping Communities Well,” said CEO Wade Erickson.

“Connectivity across our entire 28,000 square mile footprint in some of South Dakota’s most rural and frontier communities is critical to ensuring patients have access to the same quality healthcare they can receive in the larger cities,” he said. “This is also a tremendous economic benefit for our local communities and employers as their employees can reduce the time they are away from work to make long journeys to the nearest available healthcare facility.”

Erickson is grateful for dedicated community members.

“We are extremely fortunate to have like-minded and caring partners like SDN Communications and its member companies to help us fulfill our mission,” he said. “Together we keep our communities healthy!”

To donate on Giving Tuesday in South Dakota or to learn more, visit the Horizon Health Foundation website or Facebook page, or call 605-772-4553.