Home healthcare nonprofit has new leader

Ryan Larsen takes over as CEO of Harbor Home Health and Hospice

One of the leading healthcare nonprofits in the Twin Harbors area has a new leader ready to guide it through challenges of the post-pandemic era.

Ryan Larsen took over as CEO of Harbors Home Health and Hospice in December, returning to his home state after leading a home healthcare agency in Utah.

The new Harborite said he is “excited to be part of the community” and is looking to foster new relationships, and continue HHHH’s 40-year tradition of service, in the world of Harbor healthcare.

“There’s always things that we can improve and grow on, but it’s a pillar here and we just want to take that foundation and continue to build on it,” Larsen said.

The agency, which serves Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, provides skilled nursing care — including occupational, physical and speech therapies as well as oncology and pediatric care — to patients in their homes or residences. The services allow “independence, security and comfort” during care, Larsen said.

Larsen, 36, who originally hails from Kent, returns to Washington with about two decades of healthcare experience, fresh off of two executive positions at other home health agencies.

Larsen’s first exposure to the medical world was in high school, when he would tag along while his dad, a representative for a multinational pharmaceutical company, visiting hospitals and clinics to advise physicians on the use of certain medicines.

Around the same time, he got his first job in the medical field as a caregiver and started working toward further certifications in the nursing arena.

His caregiver experience means he is “able to ‘talk shop’ with our team members and relate to our patients and their family members,” said Melissa Dhooghe, director of human resources for HHHH.

But he changed course slightly as an undergraduate at Utah Valley University after a death in the family exposed him to the vast inner workings of hospital administration. He graduated with a degree in community health, with concentrations in healthcare and business administration.

Larsen then received his master’s degree at the University of Utah and started a home healthcare agency. He said he noticed at the time a lack of communication between health agencies and overlapping needs for care among patients.

As he was building the home care group, a hospice agency went up for sale, which Larsen’s group acquired.

“We kind of built a mini all-encompassing system where we could have long term support for our Medicaid patients, and also home health for our skilled needs, and then also hospice for individuals that had a terminal illness,” Larsen said.

That experience provides Larsen with the necessary background to lead HHHH, except, Larsen said, for one key difference — HHHH is a nonprofit agency, which gives it more of a “community-based system.”

“We really want to take care of the community here in Grays Harbor County,” Larsen said.

While his gig in Utah was more of a startup company, Larsen now walks into a stable agency that has served the region for more than 40 years. HHHH was established in 1981 in collaboration with the Grays Harbor County Health Department, but then formed an independent nonprofit organization. Larsen said some members of the current board have been with the organization for 20 to 30 years.

Harbors currently serves about 1,400 clients in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. But that number might grow in the coming years as the baby boomer generation ages. The number of people 85 and older will more than double by the year 2040 in both Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, according to the state Department of Health. The number of people with chronic health conditions in that age category is projected to grow by a quarter in the same time span.

And with a greater strain on hospitals, Larsen said there is an uptick in need for skilled home-based services.

“There’s strategic planning to cover what we have right now, but then looking down the line at how we can streamline things in a way that doesn’t cut the quality of care,” Larsen said.

Larsen said he wants to shake the stigma that sometimes surrounds home healthcare, specifically hospice.

“It’s such a wonderful resource for not only the patient but their family and the community,” Larsen said.

As he continues to settle into the CEO position, Larsen said he’s working to build relationships with local hospitals and health agencies. He said he also wants to find out more about the health needs of the community, and encouraged those seeking care to call the agency at 360-532-5454.

Larsen said Harbors Home Health and Hospice is also working on a new website, aimed to provide greater access to educational materials and information, with an expected launch date of Monday, March 20. The agency also has updated information on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or clayton.franke@thedailyworld.com.