Supporting the mind, body and spirit is essential to delivering high-quality health care. For more than 20 years, Joan Kenerson King has helped individuals, organizations, regions and states develop recovery-oriented and integrated systems of care. In this interview, she shares insights about her journey, consulting style and the important role integrated care plays in healing.
What inspired you to join the National Council nine years ago?
About a year before I arrived at the National Council, I was working on an integrated care project with several health foundations in Pennsylvania. I reached out to the National Council’s vice president of integration at the time to help inform my work. I remember jotting down that I really wanted to work for the organization. I had my own consulting business for 15 years, and through that work, I realized health care is different in different places. I wanted to better understand health care across the country. I was also excited about working in the integrated care space; to help providers look at people not just as clients, but as unitary beings of mind, body and spirit.
Can you tell us a little more about integrated care?
Integrated care is a set of processes designed to improve outcomes that can be applied in different ways and structural models. For a very long time, regulatory and finance systems in health care were bifurcated. We expected people in need to find their own way in a morass of services. It’s only been in the past 10-15 years that we’ve said, “This isn’t working. People are not getting healthier or better.” We began to recognize that people come to us as whole people and that all aspects of their being require attention. My background is in nursing, so thinking about how to support the entirety of the person – mind, body and spirit – through integrated care is at the core of what I do.
How do you support integrated care as a National Council consultant?
I help teams apply integrated care processes in all kinds of different settings and regions. I have experience building systems and teams that focus on the whole health of the people they serve. I do a lot of work with point-of-care practices. I try to elevate the voice of people who have received services in a mental health or substance use treatment system to bring forth their perspective on recovery and lived experience. How can we really listen to people and have them, in many cases, direct the important work we are doing on the specialty side of primary care? That’s essential.
How would you describe your approach to consulting?
My approach comes from a belief that, just like people, teams do their best work when their passions are lit up and they’re working together. I really enjoy helping teams unite and accomplish their goals. As a consultant, I take an individualized approach to every project and within every team. I work to identify an internal team’s culture strengths and challenges and I coach them to always think about the impact and influence they have on their community, as well as how to attract more partners so there’s added support for the work they’re doing. If a team loses sight of their community, they lose sight of part of the potential for healing.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I get excited helping teams find their path forward. The opportunity and privilege to stand alongside amazing people who serve in really difficult circumstances – especially in the past year – is what gets me out of bed in the morning. When I can stand with them, provide support, share new ideas and help them shape their own impact, I’m reminded of just how much I love my job.
What’s something people may not know about you?
I have six grandchildren! Also, I love to walk by the water and bike. And I enjoy traveling and meeting new people, especially at airports. I like seeing how other people live and make sense out of their lives in different places. I’m fascinated and curious about the human experience in all its forms.
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