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The Community Practice Innovation Center’s history and future characterized by growth and meeting the needs of South Dakotans

The Community Practice Innovation Center (CPIC) is a resource and collaboration center that has seen remarkable growth over the last five years. The center, which is housed in the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions at South Dakota State University, brings together faculty, staff, students, researchers, practitioners and collaborators from across the state to “lead change within community practice.”

Today, CPIC has brought in around 8.5 million dollars to the state, is made up of more than fifteen faculty and staff and is actively engaged in four major grant-funded projects that address topics including increasing awareness and resources for care of patients with diabetes and CVD, work to increase access to and effectiveness of care for patients with substance use disorders and work to strengthen and grow the respiratory therapy and public health workforce in South Dakota.

Community Practice Innovation Center to connect patients with resources
Pinto talking with a patient 

Where CPIC began, however, is far from where it is today. Five years ago, CPIC was little more than an idea for Dr. Sharrel Pinto, department head for Allied and Population Health, as she drove around the state meeting South Dakotans and hearing their stories.

In the summer of 2018, Pinto and her then small team received funding and began work on The 1815 Project. The 1815 Project is part of a response to a call-to-action from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to address health disparities among Americans with diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

To begin the work, Pinto drove across South Dakota to determine what was most needed in the state.  "When I was on the road that first year,” Pinto explained, “we saw that because of the structures in place, there’s a lot of innovation that’s happened, but also a lack of resources. Many of the organizations we now partner with were already doing great work, but they didn’t have the infrastructure to keep that up and running for the long term.”

Pinto saw that a number of good resources were available for South Dakotans, but a key piece was missing: “There was a need for infrastructure, and a need for a center that brings together individuals and organizations, who need support, training and resources to put their ideas into practice to better serve their communities.”

This is when the idea for CPIC started to take shape. Pinto’s idea was for a center where individuals from a variety of backgrounds could come together, collaborate, build off each other, and work together to meet the needs of patients across the state. With CPIC, Pinto set out to create the infrastructure needed for people in the state to work together for the benefit of South Dakotans.

After a number of delays, including ones caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CPIC was finally founded in the Fall of 2020. When it was founded, the CPIC team was made up of just four core faculty: Pinto, Dr. Alex Middendorf, Dr. Erin Miller and Dr. Aaron Hunt.

1815 Project banner logo
The 1815 Project was the first major grant-funded CPIC project, focused on the prevention and management of diabetes and CVD in South Dakota

Today, the CPIC team now has twelve faculty from different backgrounds, including pharmacy, pharmacy practice, public health, health service research, outcomes research and respiratory care, among others. According to Pinto, “CPIC is intentionally inclusive of practitioners and experts from varied backgrounds, not limited to healthcare.”

The CPIC team also has a number staff including a project manager, a community care coordinator, a program assistant, and a scientific writer. “I don’t think we could operate without our staff.” Pinto explained. “With all of our projects, there’s a dissemination piece, there’s a project management piece, there’s community outreach, there’s a component of financial function, running invoices and payroll and things like that that need to happen in order for our work to be successful.”

Because of the strength and diversity of the CPIC team, the center is able to meet a variety of South Dakota’s needs. “Aside from financially bringing in money into the state that can help solve some problems, we have experts on our team that are innovatively thinking of solutions to problems that have existed for years. Having a team like that, you could go anywhere,” Pinto said.

1815 year 2 article photo
Miller working with a patient 

In addition to the 1815 Project, the CPIC team is also actively engaged in the START-SD, which stands for Stigma, Treatment, Avoidance, and Recovery in Time for South Dakota. The START-SD project work aims to reduce the impact of substance use disorders in targeted counties in South Dakota.

Dr. Erin Miller, co-director for the START-SD project, said that in addition to the extensive prevention work she and her team are doing, “accessible treatment and recovery services are critical to helping those impacted by substance use disorder.” Through START-SD, such resources are being brought into the state, through two major HRSA-funded grants, one focusing on opioid use disorder and another focusing on psychostimulant use disorder, with plans to pursue other grant opportunities to address other impact areas of substance use.

Miller said the projects would not have been possible without the work of an interdisciplinary team. In addition to the project team, “We work closely with several partners to provide services directly to community members.” Miller explained that in making this interdisciplinary and collaborative work possible, “CPIC helps provide the infrastructure and support, which allow us to leverage a variety of strengths, like those brought by the different faculty, staff, and partnerships.”

START-SD )Stigma, Treatment, Avoidance and Recovery in Time logo)
START-SD is the second major grant-funded CPIC project, focused on fighting stigma and providing treatment and recovery services for substance use disorders in South Dakota

Partnerships established through the Center have been key to the success of all CPIC’s projects. Today, CPIC partners with approximately thirty different organizations across the state on its different projects. Pinto said these partnerships have been key to the success of both the partners as well as the projects they have collaborated on. “We’ve really been actively engaged in listening to our community partners and hearing what they’re saying,” Pinto explained. “Through the center, we help them write proposals that will help them be successful and even offer resources that they may not have otherwise had access to.”

Partnerships have been key in the newest of CPIC’s major grant-funded projects, BREATHE-SD. BREATHE-SD, which stands for Bringing Resources, Education, Awareness, Training, Holistic care, and Education to South Dakota, is a collaborative project focused on increasing and strengthening the respiratory therapy and public health workforce in the state. On the project, the CPIC team has partnered with three rural South Dakota hospitals: the Huron Regional Medical Center, Madison Regional Health System and Brookings Health System.

Through the BREATHE-SD, the SDSU Respiratory Care program capacity will grow to train and graduate more students each year. The project work will also allow opportunities for these students to train and provide services at these rural hospitals. Additionally, the project team will conduct a campaign to increase awareness across the state of respiratory therapy and public health professions in an effort to meet the growing need for respiratory therapists and public health workers.

Breathe banner logo
BREATHE-SD is currently CPIC's newest grant-funded project, and is focused on growing the respiratory therapy and public health workforce in South Dakota

According to Pinto, the BREATHE-SD work is important for a number of reasons: BREATHE-SD is not just a pioneering project, but a pivotal project for healthcare in general. Through work like this, major funding agencies like HRSA are starting to recognize that academic institutions are the feeder for the healthcare workforce and they need support to continue to train the next generation of healthcare professionals.”

Training the next generation of healthcare workers is not only important for the BREATHE-SD project, but also for CPIC more generally. SDSU students from a variety of programs including pharmacy practice and public health play key roles in CPIC projects. According to Dr. Miller, “CPIC projects provide unique hands-on experiences that students would not otherwise get and it is so exciting to see students grow through their work on the projects.” Currently, CPIC has around twenty students actively engaged in CPIC projects and has other high school student internships or student researcher opportunities available.

In the less than three years since its founding, CPIC has grown from being an idea to being a well-established center that has brought in millions of dollars to the state, provided a variety of services through its projects, connected countless professionals and provided several opportunities for students to work alongside CPIC faculty and staff. Dr. Pinto recognizes the key role CPIC has played, even stating that the 1815 Project, START-SD and BREATHE-SD would not have happened nor had the success they’ve had without CPIC.

Vanden Hull, Pinto, Middendorf
Pinto (center), Middendorf (right), and CPIC student researcher Alexa Vanden Hull (left) presenting on work completed through The 1815 Project

She also noted that, considering how far the center has come, how much further it may go in the coming years. “I would like to see CPIC go global,” Pinto explained. “I think in order for us to get there, to reach that long-term goal and that vision we have to really get individuals in our community, both the local and state-wide community, to recognize all the things that we do and offer as resources. With that recognition, we can branch out to help other states and other areas that have similar needs, because of the models that we’ve tested and tried out.”

As the CPIC work continues, Pinto is focused on growing the partnerships CPIC has already made and continuing to do project work that benefits South Dakotans. “I’ve chosen a path less traveled. Our grass roots community-based work is time and resource intensive and could be off-putting for institutions interested in reaping quick rewards,” Pinto said. However, SDSU’s land-grant mission coupled with Pinto’s service-centric commitment toward patient care, health and well-being have allowed this Center to thrive and accelerate growth in a short period of time. “I want CPIC to be an all-inclusive institution catering to the needs of all.”

Pinto continues, “those in our local community looking for assistance in solving community-based, multi-level, complex problems, are coming to us with a need for a solution. Complex multi-faceted problems can be solved by transdisciplinary work by bringing together individuals from different disciplines and backgrounds. Ultimately, by working together, we can meet our community’s needs and continue to listen, learn, grow and strive for the betterment of our rural and local communities.”

This May, the CPIC team will wrap up the five-year 1815 Project that was key to the founding of the Community Practice Innovation Center. The center continues to grow in many different directions as its faculty and staff expand the work on START-SD and BREATHE-SD, pursue other opportunities to serve South Dakotans by making care more accessible, grow the START-SD work to create more resources for individuals with substance use conditions, and targeting previously unmet needs in South Dakota, like perinatal mental health.

To learn more about CPIC's current and upcoming projects.