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It’s National Health Center Week!

If you’re a fan of health care reform and you’re looking for something to celebrate, look no further.  August 6-10 is National Health Center Week. What a feel-good celebration ! Community health centers enjoy bi-partisan support. And there are good reasons why.

Believe it or not, they comprise the largest health system in the US. Community health centers provide quality, continuous primary care to over 20 million Americans at 8,000 sites across the country. Located in urban and rural communities lacking in health providers, community health centers help people with low incomes prevent and manage chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma. Uncontrolled chronic health conditions are a major driver of escalating health care costs in the US, so community health centers a big part of the solution to our health care mess.  And a health center visit costs a fraction of an ER visit.

For over 40 years, Community Health Centers have provided documented results:  

  • Up to 40 percent reductions in infant mortality rates 
  • Reduced health disparities among patients with chronic diseases 
  • Fewer ER visits and hospital admissions 
  •  Shorter hospital stays 
  • Fewer unmet needs of the uninsured

Their secrets? Locate in under-served communities; provide services on a sliding fee scale;  and, provide care that is culturally suited to their community, by having a board composed of at least 50% patients and employing people from the community, and doing outreach to become a respected part of the community.

Ohio’s Community Health Centers: Part of the Solution

According to OACHC, Ohio has 38 community health centers in over 160 locations. In 2010, they provided care to over 500,000 Ohioans in more than 1,900,000 patient visits. To find out where they are, go to www.oachc.org.

In many areas of Ohio, OACHC member health centers are the only source of health care for Medicaid patients and the uninsured. Community health centers are safety net providers of cost-effective, high-quality primary and preventive health care in Ohio.

We have a serious shortage of primary care doctors in Ohio and the US. When we expand Medicaid in 2014, Ohio will cover an estimated additional 900,000 Ohioans. But, will they all be able to find primary care providers?

Like their national counterparts, the Ohio’s community health centers have been expanding capacity like wildfire. With their own entrepreneurial spirit aided by federal funding from the American Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act, Ohio’s community health centers are aiming to double their capacity by 2015.

Leading the way in Innovative New Models of Care

Many of Ohio’s CHCs are in the forefront of efforts to modernize delivery of health care to provide better health care and better outcomes, at lower costs. They are active in state and regional efforts (see, for example, http://accesshealthcolumbus.org/images/pdf/Documents/patient_centered/NCQA-PCMH-Results.pdf)  to adopt the “patient centered medical home” model of team based, coordinated, patient-centered care. In fact, CHCs were using elements of that model before it became fashionable in reform circles. (To learn about Ohio’s CHCs effort, go to http://www.odh.ohio.gov/landing/medicalhomes/opcpcc.aspx)

 Some CHCs will be participating in Ohio’s Medicaid Health Home pilot, providing quality behavioral health and physical health services under one roof for Ohioans with severe and persistent mental illness that die an average of 25 years prematurely because they don’t get their chronic conditions treated.

And the success of Ohio’s plan to enroll 118,000 dually eligible (Medicaid/Medicare) beneficiaries in “Integrated Care Delivery Systems” (managed care plans) will depend, in large part, on robust care coordination at the primary care level. We should expect to see chc’s playing a pivotal role in coordinating the care of dually eligible patients with complex medical needs.

To learn more about chcs, go to  http://www.nachc.com/about-our-health-centers.cfm

To learn more about Ohio chcs, go to http://www.ohiochc.org

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