- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

LAPORTE, Ind. (AP) - Money from the sale of the Indiana University LaPorte Hospital was used to create a nonprofit foundation that will focus on trying to improve the health of the northern Indiana county.

A deal to sell an 80 percent stake in the hospital to Community Health Systems, a for-profit hospital system based in Franklin, Tennessee, was finalized Tuesday. IU Health will retain a 20 percent stake in the hospital. The deal also includes the 50-bed IU Health Starke Hospital in Knox.

“We hope the new foundation will be able to make incredible strides in improving the health of the community. The health care foundation will be the local voice for health and wellness,” Maria Fruth, chief operating officer of the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte, told The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/1SCwv3N).

Because the community provided a third of the funding for the hospital built in 1972, $106 million from the sale went into the newly created Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte, which will provide grants for community health projects.

Five percent of the foundation’s assets, or more than $5 million, will be distributed every year.

The foundation will be managed by a board of 11 community members, six of whom will be appointed by the hospital and five by the LaPorte Hospital Foundation, which has an endowment of $8.5 million and will eventually be phased into the new, private nonprofit. The first grants will be given in a year and a half.

“LaPorte’s a small community. This size of a foundation should be able to make a pretty significant impact on the quality of health in our particular community,” the foundation’s board chairman Jeff Bernel said.

LaPorte County ranked as the 75th healthiest of Indiana’s 92 counties in 2015, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation and hospital have announced a goal of making LaPorte one of the 10 healthiest communities by the year 2030.

LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo, who leads residents in Fitness Fridays, said some areas of need for the community include healthy eating, smoking cessation and diabetes prevention.

“Ultimately we’re looking at behavioral changes from a population. That’s not going to be quick and easy,” Milo said. “Creating an environment where making the healthy choice is the easy choice takes time.”

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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