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Health agency head looks for novel ways to meet clients’ needs

Sure, Silver State Health Services provides access to affordable mental health and medical care for low-income and underserved Southern Nevadans, and in ways that at least appear similar to what other nonprofit health care providers do.

But there’s that trolley that’s being used as an outreach and service vehicle. And, Murphy, the labradoodle who joins Ryan Linden at the office each day and, it turns out, is a great Silver State Health Services ambassador who’s also being trained as a therapy dog.

Linden, 30, is Silver State Health’s CEO and executive director. His introduction to health care came early thanks to his parents, who are mental health practitioners. But Linden found himself attracted to the business side of medicine, intrigued by the challenges of improving the health care delivery system.

After graduating from Oklahoma State University, Linden moved to Las Vegas seven years ago and worked in administrative positions at several area organizations before becoming CEO of Silver State Health Services, a federally qualified health center, two years ago.

Silver State is “really focused on treating what I call the medically underserved population,” Linden says.

That group may have difficulty navigating the health care system. “Silver State really exists to make sure that no one falls in between the cracks of our health care system,” Linden says, offering clients “the best, high-quality care” regardless of income or social status.

The agency’s clients include people on Medicaid, income-limited seniors on Medicare, and those who can’t afford their health insurance’s high co-pays or deductibles. The agency focuses on offering a full range of care — including access to community assistance programs — delivered by bilingual, culturally sensitive practitioners on a sliding fee scale.

“We focus on what we call integrative health care, and make sure whoever receives primary health care also has access to mental health services. So we want to make it one-stop shopping,” Linden says.

Next year, that menu will expand to include dental services.

Review-Journal: Health care these days seems like a rough road to navigate.

Ryan Linden: That’s what makes it so exciting to be able to deliver (health care). What I love most about Las Vegas … is because of a lack of a real infrastructure, there are so many opportunities to be innovative and deliver service in meaningful ways.

It sounds like Silver State works on a different, maybe more expansive or inclusive, model in providing services.

What I often say is, if you’re interested in universal health care, if you want to see what that looks like, you want to visit Silver State Health. That’s the place where regardless of everything (clients are) given universal, basic needs of health care.

The trolley certainly is a different touch.

(Laughs) I figure I’ve been in Las Vegas seven years and I’ve never seen a trolley. I want to catch people’s attention, I want people to smile and have something that kids will smile at and gravitate toward. We renovated it, and we can drive it around to community events, ring the bell, and have people hop on and receive a checkup.

And you have a dog who comes to work with you?

During our first year I had decided that we need a therapy dog, so I brought in a Labradoodle. I’ve been training him to take him to work every day in the clinic and have him make the kids smile. He certainly makes me smile each day at work.

How do you decompress?

Music. I’ve been a musician my whole life. I’ve got a nice piano at home. That’s my after-work (relaxation) for a couple of hours.

What’s your favorite type of music?

Mostly jazz. … I’m super-drawn to improvisation and kind of carrying the spirit of improvisation throughout life. I think that helps me stay balanced and ready for what’s next.

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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