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George Adams: Co-chair of the Jackson Care Connect Community Advisory Council

George Adams, 50, admits, “I didn’t really think about life when I was able to walk. But life can change in five seconds.”

It was August 24, 1997, the last day George would walk to his car to make the 50-mile drive home from his job near Anchorage, Alaska. A long stretch of road and a bit of sleep-deprived inattention was all it took. He woke up in the hospital with three broken neck vertebrae from an accident that changed his life forever.George Adams, Co-Chair of the Jackson Care Connect Community Advisory Council

Permanently confined to a wheelchair, George now lives in Medford near his mother and sister. The state’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan, provides his medical services. His care is coordinated by Jackson Care Connect, a local Coordinated Care Organization (CCO). Oregon set up CCOs to replace the fragmented health system that relied on different groups to provide medical care, mental health, addictions care, and dental services.

He could have shied away from his new reality, but George didn’t. “I understand that life now is different,” he says. “Each person mourns loss in his own way, but I’ve been given a second chance.”

“It was a wakeup call and I’m lucky.”

George chose to use his second chance helping others with disabilities. He was already serving on three medical transportation committees as an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities, when Anne Alftine, M.D., interim medical director for Jackson Care Connect recommended him to its Community Advisory Council.

Jackson Care Connect’s Community Advisory Council works to improve the service that Jackson Care Connect and its provider organizations offer members. They identify improvement opportunities and provide suggestions about Jackson Care Connect programs. They also organize activities and projects that engage fellow members and the community on health care issues.

Through community needs assessments, they are learning what we need to do to make our communities the healthiest places to live, work and play. “George brings unique perspective to the Community Advisory Council,” says Heidi Hill, Jackson Care Connect community outreach coordinator. “He understands that anyone can be one step away from needing the health services that the Oregon Health Plan provides. He brings tremendous insight into what it is like to require comprehensive medical transportation. And he is an enthusiastic, responsible committee member.”

Because of his driving spirit and passion for advocacy, this year his fellow committee members elected George co-chair of the Community Advisory Council.

George’s message to the whole community is this: His experience can happen to anyone, without warning. “We need to have the best medical systems in place and the best care available because any healthy person can be on the receiving end some day.”

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