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 Mark Parkinson Honored with Public Service Award

Tireless advocate. Those are the words used by leaders in the long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) profession to describe Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). To witness the work of the leader of the nation’s largest trade association for LT/PAC providers is to be continuously reminded of the plethora of regulatory and financial challenges facing care providers and the solutions AHCA/NCAL has set in motion to address them.

Parkinson was honored with the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA) Public Service Award during its 2019 Convocation & Expo in Louisville, Ky. The purpose of the award is to recognize an individual who has promoted positive public awareness related to the field of post-acute and aging services.

“He’s really a tireless advocate,” says Bill McGinley, president and chief executive officer of ACHCA, of Parkinson. “The respect that he’s garnered throughout the entire profession in the field of long term care is really incredible.”

In addition, Parkinson’s list of accomplishments alone is the most McGinley has ever seen from any nominee for the award. “He’s seen as a high-profile individual, well known throughout the industry, able to traverse the halls of Capitol Hill, respected by everyone up there,” he says. “We’re just very excited to give him this award.”

AHCA/NCAL’s work under Parkinson’s leadership and is a perfect blend with ACHCA’s work, says McGinley. “He’s working to help get more funding for nursing homes, to smooth out the regulations a bit, and we’re looking for better leaders on our side,” he says. “But together, we’re really working to make life better for the elderly and the frail people who live in nursing homes and post-acute settings.”

The role of the LT/PAC administrator is one that Parkinson understands well. Prior to his role at AHCA/NCAL and his term as the 45th governor of Kansas, he was the owner and operator of long term care facilities in Kansas and Missouri.

“I have the deepest admiration for successful administrators,” Parkinson tells Provider. “A successful administrator must have an incredible number of skill sets. They have to be a social worker, a business person, a confidante, a leader, and often all at the same time.”

In his 30 years of involvement in LT/PAC, the number of changes that administrators are currently having to deal with now is greater than ever, he says. This is due to a combination of additional state and federal regulations and entirely new payment models.

“At the same time, we’re constantly being scrutinized by the regulators and plaintiff lawyers, and that makes this a nearly impossible job,” says Parkinson. “And that’s why I admire those administrators that do it so much.”

Those challenges have brought great opportunities to turn the tables and meet problems with answers. And it is this hallmark that is AHCA/NCAL’s approach under Parkinson’s leadership that ACHCA leaders took special note of, including Jeffrey Lacroix, an administrator himself and chair of the ACHCA awards committee.

“Mark’s focused commitment toward our frail, disabled, and elderly population in combination with his leadership within AHCA results in continuous and valued insight to our political leaders regarding the numerous challenges facing long term care,” he says.

He also points out AHCA/NCAL’s moves to empower its own members. “His leadership has allowed AHCA to continue offering outstanding educational opportunities and literature to its members, while also passionately advocating for adequate funding and sensible regulations,” Lacroix says.

But what Parkinson is most proud about is AHCA/NCAL’s partnership with administrators to improve quality across the country. “It’s very difficult to improve quality in an individual building, but it’s possible,” he says. “The work that we’ve done collectively to improve quality across the country is what I’m the proudest of.”

In the future, there will be an enormous need for LT/PAC services because the boomers are coming, and administrators will be the key piece to providing quality care in upcoming years, Parkinson says. “To be honored by a group that I admire so much is very meaningful,” he says.

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