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Top News Stories

CHC Mourns the Passing of Rep. Betty Boukus

Aldon Hynes 0 13

We at Community Health Center send heartfelt condolences to the family of Rep. Betty Boukus. Betty’s passion for her community and constituents was unmatched and she will be sorely missed. She was a special friend of the Health Center, always supportive of our mission of helping the medically underserved in Plainville and New Britain, and across Connecticut. Thank you, Betty, for a lifetime of service.

Senate to vote on rural health access bill

Meaghan Lyver 0 51


·         Legislation introduced by Sens. Hatch and Schatz.
·         Bill helps primary care physicians learn about complex diseases from specialists.
The Senate will vote today on legislation requiring the government to study increasing access to specialty care in rural areas, and the legislation is expected to pass the chamber, a Senate Democratic spokesman told The Hill Extra.
Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act — ECHO — (S. 2873) aims to interweave a model of continuing medical education into more areas of the country, as accessing specialist care can be particularly difficult in rural areas.

The Senate Democratic spokesman wrote in an email that there hadn’t previously been objections to the measure, and thus, expects it to pass.

Started in 2003, Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) links primary care physicians in underserved areas to those who specialize in complex diseases, such as hepatitis C, chronic pain, behavioral health. Both participate in video conferences, where the primary care physicians are able to learn from the specialists to better care for patients in remote areas.
Currently, there are more than 100 hubs that help primary care physicians, Sanjeev Arora, Project ECHO director, told The Hill Extra.
The ECHO Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services to analyze the model’s effect on provider capacity and workforce issues and how it impacts patient care.
Additionally, it requests a report from the Government Accountability Office on increasing the use of this model, potential cost savings and more. It also requires the HHS secretary to submit a report to Congress on its and GAO’s findings.
The American Medical Association and the National Association of Community Health Centers lauded the bill in a press release announcing its introduction in April. The bill (H.R. 5395) was also introduced in the House in June, and a House Republican spokeswoman expressed confidence the Senate would support the measure and hope that it will be brought up on the House floor.
ECHO’s inception.
In the early 2000s, Arora — who is a distinguished professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico — had an eight-month waitlist for patients diagnosed with hepatitis C to see him in his clinic. Patients were driving from hundreds of miles away to receive treatment, he told The Hill Extra, because there weren’t specialists in rural areas available to treat them.
Thus, the concept of ECHO was born, using technology to help primary care physicians learn how to treat patients with hepatitis C. In less than two years,
Arora’s waitlist whittled from eight months to two weeks, he said.
“We developed ECHO to bring access to care to everyone with hepatitis C in
New Mexico,” Arora said. “We knew if we could do that … we could have a model to treat complex diseases in rural locations and developing countries.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the measure, and Arora said he was “really, really surprised that they were interested, and just very grateful.”
“Having the Senate give its approval of the model and for it to be studie

Higher levels of depression, anxiety found among region’s Hispanics

Meaghan Lyver 0 102

It’s tough getting an appointment with Dianna Rodriguez, a behavioral health clinician at the Community Health Center’s New London clinic.

“My schedule is always full,” said Rodriguez, the only Spanish-speaking mental health counselor at the clinic, and one of only a few in the greater New London area. “We could definitely use more Spanish-speaking clinicians.”

The high demand for Rodriguez’s services is one manifestation of a problem identified in the 2016 Community Health Assessment recently completed by Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Ledge Light Health District. Based on surveys of more than 1,200 residents of the region, the report found that 18 percent of Hispanics report frequent feelings of depression or hopelessness — about twice as high as other groups — and similar levels of anxiety. The survey solicited responses from residents of 10 towns in L+M's service area: Lyme, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Montville, Waterford, New London, Ledyard, Groton, North Stonington and Stonington.

Community representatives asked about the findings suggested the situation is caused by multiple factors, according to the report. For Hispanic immigrants, homesickness and concerns about their own or a family member’s immigration status is one of the main reasons. There is also a lot of stigma about seeking mental health care, the report states.

“We have heard that mental health is considered a very private matter,” said Laurel Holmes, director of community partnerships and population health at L+M. “They also report high levels of social isolation. We need to reduce the stigma and create a stronger safety net.”

A group of public health experts and Hispanic leaders are at the beginning of an effort to address the finding with concrete actions. First, though, more analysis is needed of both the local situation and the bigger context.

“The goal is to understand why,” said Russ Melmed, supervisor of health education and community outreach and epidemiologist at Ledge Light.

Nationally, Hispanics show significantly higher levels of depression and other mental health distress compared to other groups, with poverty cited as one of the main contributing factors, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

In its initial response, a local group led by the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut has begun compiling mental health resources that can be tapped by local Hispanics. Judelysse Gomez, assistant professor of psychology at Connecticut College, is a one of the members of that group.

“These are trends that have been going on for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised at all,” she said in an interview Friday. Before joining the faculty at Conn last April, Gomez worked and conducted research at clinics with large Hispanic patient rosters in Providence and Miami, learning firsthand about some of the obstacles this group faces in getting treatment for mental health problems. Some of them are logistical, like lack of transportation to get to appointments, while others are financial, like lack of health insurance or child care.

The stigma is an additional factor, she said, and one way of counteracting it is to use more welcoming terminology. Instead of “mental health counselors,” for example, some providers are reaching out to Hispanics by using the phrase “promotores de salud mental” — promoters of mental health — instead.

But an even larger issue, she said, is the shortage of counselors who are &


News Releases

New Program Helping Providers Treat Opioid-Addicted Patients Now Available to California Health Centers

Weitzman Institute Launches California Project ECHO Addiction Treatment Program

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MIDDLETOWN, Conn., November 28, 2016: With deadly overdoses occurring across California, the California Health Care Foundation and the Center for Care Innovations have partnered with the Weitzman Institute to develop a Project ECHO Buprenorphine program specifically for California primary care organizations. Already more than a dozen health centers statewide have joined to improve and expand their ability to treat patients suffering from opioid addiction.

Weitzman’s ECHO Buprenorphine is the only such program designed and developed by primary care providers for primary care providers. Healthcare providers throughout California will benefit from real-time case discussions with primary care practitioners actively treating substance abuse and addiction and from their firm understanding of the realities and challenges faced by front-line providers.

“Weitzman ECHO is the only ECHO program developed by primary care providers for primary care staff, and, for this reason, it is uniquely and ideally suited to address the needs of front-line primary care staff,” said Daren Anderson, MD, director of the Weitzman Institute and CHC’s vice president and chief quality officer. “Weitzman ECHO lectures and discussions are led by active, practicing providers who speak from experience and fully understand the challenges faced by front-line providers. This fact has led Weitzman ECHO to grow into one of the largest ECHO providers in the country, delivering sessions to more than 880 providers and care team members in 24 states nationwide,” said Anderson.

Buprenorphine is one of the most effective, evidence-based interventions for treating opioid abuse and reducing overdose, but few primary care providers have experience with the therapy or understand how to incorporate it into their practice. The Weitzman ECHO creates virtual classrooms for primary care providers and members of their practice teams to improve their skills and gain confidence in treating patients’ substance use disorders. Providers who have participated in Weitzman ECHO clinics routinely report high satisfaction and greater confidence in their ability to treat patients.

The Weitzman ECHO is made available to California health centers by the California Health Care Foundation and the Center for Care Innovations. “Project ECHO is a great tool in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Kelly Pfeifer, MD, a director at the California Health Care Foundation.  “Only one in 10 Californians has access to addiction treatment, and the need is urgent. We are proud to partner with the Weitzman Institute to allow more people to find treatment that works, with the primary care provider they trust.”

In 2016, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) granted Substance Abuse Service Expansion Awards to 36 California health centers to provide medication assisted treatment for patients suffering opioid use disorders.  However, most California awardees reported little or no experience providing addiction treatment and said they needed technical assistance. In response to the request for support, the California Health Care Foundation and the Centers for Care Innovations established the Treating Addiction in the Primary Care Safety Net program, which offered Weitzman ECHO Buprenorphine, along with other technical assistance programs. To date, 14 health centers have agreed to participate in ECHO Buprenorphine. Additional health centers throughout California are expected

Tools and Strategies for Treating Chronic Pain, Reducing Opioid Use Now Available Free to Health Care Providers

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Contact: Leslie Gianelli

[email protected]

(860)-347-6971 x3080


Tools and Strategies for Treating Chronic Pain, Reducing Opioid Use Now Available Free to Health Care Providers


MIDDLETOWN, Conn., October 26, 2016: For primary care providers, who care for about half of all the patients with chronic pain, the growing awareness of the questionable long-term treatment value of opioids with their likelihood of diversion, overdose and addiction has left them struggling for solutions.

To provide guidance, clinical providers and care team members everywhere have free access to PainNET, an online learning community developed by Community Health Center, Inc. and the Weitzman Institute. The website, www.painnet.net, which became public October 26, contains essential tools and resources to help providers tackle issues of pain and prescription opioid management.

“The tools and resources provided in PainNET come directly from pain experts with extensive experience working with patients,” said Daren Anderson, MD, vice president and chief quality officer at CHC, a primary care organization with more than 145,000 patients, and director of the Weitzman Institute. “We know most primary care providers received little training in the management of complex pain or cases where pain, addiction and mental health issues co-exist. We believe PainNET helps fill that knowledge gap.”

PainNET was developed in 2015 as a content library of video recordings, resources and blog posts for providers participating in Project ECHO Pain, the recurring videoconferences that allow primary care medical and behavioral health clinicians to present challenging cases to a multidisciplinary team from the Integrative Pain Center of Arizona and receive real-time advice on pain care. Currently, PainNET is being used by more than 229 providers from over 80 practices.

“We learned that participants in Project ECHO Pain needed flexible access to pain care content in order to recall presented information and share it with other providers at their practice sites,” said Anderson.  After making PainNET available to ECHO Pain participants and staff members at participating practice sites, CHC surveyed initial users and learned that most expressed high satisfaction with PainNET and its use in their practices and that most providers experienced statistically significant improvement in their knowledge about caring for patients with complex chronic pain.  One primary care provider in Colorado said, “PainNET is a way to discuss difficult situations with other doc

Delaware Department of Corrections Introduces Telehealth E-Consults via Connections Community SupportPrograms and CeCN

Program to increase access to specialty care for offender patients; lower healthcare and transportation costs

Meaghan Lyver 0 1147

Contact: Leslie Gianelli
Community Health Center, Inc.
(860) 918-7504 or [email protected]

Delaware Department of Corrections Introduces Telehealth E-Consults via Connections Community Support Programs and CeCN

Program to increase access to specialty care for offender patients; lower healthcare and transportation costs 

Middletown, Connecticut; October 4, 2016: A new telehealth program launched in Delaware this summer enables primary healthcare providers to receive advice from specialists without offender patients having to leave their correctional facility. Connections Community Support Programs has partnered with Community eConsult Network(CeCN) to implement the telehealth eConsults program, which is expected to increase access to specialty care, and save money in healthcare and transportation costs, resulting in better health outcomes for offenders.

Connections Community Support Program provides primary medical and behavioral health care for all individuals who are incarcerated in the unified correctional system operated by the Delaware Department of Correction. Through CeCN, providers working at correctional facilities can consult with specialists on individual offender patients electronically, submitting details about the case and photos if necessary for feedback.  However, Connections Community Support primary care providers have the final say on the offender patient’s treatment plan. 

“Finding specialists who are taking new patients is difficult in general, but finding specialists who accept new patients from the correctional system is especially hard,” says Delaware Department of Corrections Bureau Chief Marc Richman. “Since we are obligated to provide care of at least a community standard, we often end up sending offender patients long distances for treatment. With two correctional officers managing the transport, each transport is quite expensive.”

Data from previous CeCN programs in a community health setting shows that only 31 percent of e-consults necessitated a face-to-face visit with a specialist. The rest of the time, the primary care physician was able to handle treatment with the specialist’s guidance. Prior to implementing e-consults earlier this year, Delaware DOC performed 2500-2700 medical moves a year at a cost of $800,000 - $1,000,000. “Lowering that number will result in significant savings,” says Richman.

“The idea that drives CeCN is to move knowledge, not patients,” says Daren Anderson, Director of Community Health Center’s Weitzman Institute, which oversees CeCN. “It’s hard to imagine a setting where this idea makes more sense than the correctional system.”

“In vulnerable populations, we see that e-consults lead to more timely care and better health outcomes because the majority of the time, care can be delivered without the patient locating or scheduling a specialist,” says Kevin Massey, who oversees CeCN as Business and Product Develo