Leaders representing local nonprofits and community organizations packed a conference room at Southwestern Community College. Janice Brunmit, Chair of Dogwood Health Trust introduced the new CEO Antony Chaing.
Dogwood was established in February when private hospital giant HCA Healthcare bought the non-profit hospital Mission Health for $1.5 billion. The foundation is tasked with allocating profits from that sale to organizations across the 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary. Chaing says the aim is to improve public health.
“As you can imagine as she is talking about $1.5 billion dollars it is incredibly humbling to be in this new role and it is a real honor,” says Chaing.
After talking about his background at Empire Health Foundation in Washington State, Chaing asked the group for four statistics they wanted Dogwood to drastically change in the Western Carolina region. The answers were tallied. Increasing education and healthcare access and affordability were the top priorities among those in attendance.
“So just with in education you might have 50 impact goals and 50 strategies. So I just want you to think about the road ahead here,” says Chaing. “We will all have to work together.”
The trust so far has allocated $25 million to address the opioid crisis, as part of an agreement with the state Attorney General Josh Stein. Chiang asked the room how that money should be divvied up across the communities Dogwood serves. There wasn’t one clear choice:
“So these are going to be some really tough strategic decisions to make because people are suffering in all 19 counties. So do we pilot and learn or do we try to do both?”
Chaing also offered some more attainable short-term goals, such as providing a fund for organizations to hire grant writers. Dogwood also gave every participant a list of upcoming grants from sources outside NC.
Chaing officially starts work in November.