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Top News Stories

Senate to vote on rural health access bill

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·         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 0 447
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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 &

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Improving pain care through implementation of the Stepped Care Model at a multisite community health center

Meaghan Lyver 0 303

Purpose: Treating pain in primary care is challenging. Primary care providers (PCPs) receive limited training in pain care and express low confidence in their knowledge and ability to manage pain effectively. Models to improve pain outcomes have been developed, but not formally implemented in safety net practices where pain is particularly common. This study evaluated the impact of implementing the Stepped Care Model for Pain Management (SCM-PM) at a large, multisite Federally Qualified Health Center.

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News Releases

Community Health Center’s Dr. Veena Recommends Simple Steps to Avoid Flu

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MIDDLETOWN, Conn., February 8, 2017: Connecticut is one of the states hit hard by the flu this year, with hundreds suffering from the virus; but it’s not too late to avoid becoming a statistic.

“Get a flu shot. It’s your best protection against the flu, which is expected to peak in March,” says Veena Channamsetty, MD, chief medical officer of Community Health Center, Inc.

Other simple steps to avoid getting the flu:

•             Wash your hands often

•             Avoid close contact with people who are sick

•             If you have flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches), limit contact with others

•             Disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people

•             Boost your immune system by eating healthy foods and drinking fluids

“The flu spreads easily this time of year, especially in schools and office buildings,” says Dr. Veena. “Taking a few precautionary steps to avoid contracting the virus can make a huge difference.”

 

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About Community Health Center, Inc.
Since 1972, Community Health Center, Inc. has been one of the leading healthcare providers in the state of Connecticut, building a world-class primary healthcare system committed to caring for uninsured and underserved populations. CHC is focused on improving health outcomes for its more than 145,000 patients as well as building healthy communities. Recognized as both a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and a Primary Care Medical Home by The Joint Commission, CHC delivers service in more than 200 locations statewide, offering primary care in medical, dental and behavioral health services. For more information, visit www.chc1.com.


Free Dental Care Provided though CHC Mission of Mercy

Meaghan Lyver 0 410

MIDDLETOWN, Conn., January 23: Dental care providers from Community Health Center, Inc. provided free dental care to people in need and without insurance at its Middletown site Saturday as part of the Mission of Mercy program.

“We provided 37 patients with an array of services from exams, X-rays and cleanings to fillings, dentures and extractions,” said Sheela Tummala, chief dental officer for CHC, who participated in and organized the event. “With the support and service of our volunteers, we were able to help many of the patients in need within our community.”

CHC provides dental care to its patients regardless of their ability to pay, using a sliding fee scale for those without Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.  It periodically holds Mission of Mercy dental clinics to provide services to those who are not patients.

“The nurses and doctors are good; and because sometimes I have a job and sometimes I don’t, it can be difficult for me and my family to pay for my teeth. This helps,” said Noemi Campos, who received dental treatment at the event. 

Thirteen staff members, including dental providers, dental assistants, hygienists, and patient service associates volunteered their time and services for the event while staff from CHC’s Healthcare for the Homeless helped schedule appointments and provide transportation.

Tummala said CHC will hold five more Missions of Mercy at different sites around Connecticut this year.

 

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About Community Health Center, Inc.
Since 1972, Community Health Center, Inc. has been one of the leading healthcare providers in the state of Connecticut, building a world-class primary healthcare system committed to caring for uninsured and underserved populations. CHC is focused on improving health outcomes for its more than 145,000 patients as well as building healthy communities. Recognized as both a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and a Primary Care Medical Home by The Joint Commission, CHC delivers service in more than 200 locations statewide, offering primary care in medical, dental and behavioral health 

CHC and CeCN Expand Electronic Consultations to California’s El Dorado Community Health Center

Meaghan Lyver 0 248

MIDDLETOWN, Conn., January 17, 2017: The Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) and Community eConsult Network (CeCN) extended rapid specialty consultation service to El Dorado Community Health Center, a primary care organization serving 9,000 patients in California’s El Dorado County. 

The service gives primary care providers at the health center access to prompt electronic consultations for their patients in six specialties: cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, and rheumatology. In most cases, the consultations are completed within two business days.

“CeCN gives primary care providers the ability to communicate promptly back and forth with specialists,” says Daren Anderson, MD, a member of the CeCN Board of Directors. “Our research has shown that specialty consultations can be safely and efficiently managed through secure electronic messaging, with improved convenience for patients and without compromising the quality of care,” he adds.

CeCN, a wholly owned subsidiary of CHC, was incorporated in 2015 to improve access to specialty care, especially in areas where it is limited, such as rural and underserved communities. Restricted access to specialty consultations contributes to healthcare disparities, higher rates of disability, and complications in chronic diseases, according to Anderson.

El Dorado Community Health Center is the third healthcare organization in California to join CeCN. Ampla Health and Chapa-De Indian Health joined last year.

CeCN provides specialty consultation to primary care providers in healthcare organizations in seven states.

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About Community Health Center, Inc.
Since 1972, Community Health Center, Inc. has been one of the leading healthcare providers in the state of Connecticut, building a world-class primary healthcare system committed to caring for uninsured and underserved populations. CHC is focused on improving health outcomes for its more than 145,000 patients as well as building healthy communities. Recognized as both a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and a Primary Care Medical Home by The Joint Commission, CHC delivers service in more than 200 locations statewide, offering primary care in medical, dental and behavioral health services. For more information, visit www.chc1.com.

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