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Community Health Centers facing financial doubly whammy

Meaghan Lyver 0 116

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) –  Connecticut’s Community Health Centers, that serve thousands of Connecticut residents, are facing two major financial storms. One from the Republican Health Care plan in Washington the other from the State Budget gridlock in Hartford.

About a quarter of the population in Meriden comes to the Community Health Center here for their health care. There are 13 other centers like the one in Meriden around the state serving 145,000 Connecticut residents every year. About eighty percent are covered by Medicaid.

41-year-old Merita Berisha is one of them. She and her mother are refugees from Kosovo. She has two children, also dependent on Medicaid. She is greatly concerned by the news that the Republican health care plan would cut one out of every four Medicaid dollars coming to Connecticut. “My concern is because it’s going to affect me and my kids and my mom and many of us, and I don’t work so I’m afraid it’s going to affect us in so many ways.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal met with the staff here today saying besides the same cuts in Medicaid, the revised Republican health plan will result in fewer people in Connecticut being able to purchase insurance adding, “Disastrous for Connecticut. Disastrous and deadly for our state.”

In addition to these health centers C.H.C. also operates over 200 school based health centers and they have now been threatened by the state budget problems in Hartford. C.H.C. Vice President Amy Taylor saying, “Because of the state budget we are looking at a potential of a 25 percent reduction to our school based health center funding.”

So these centers, that serve the health needs of thousands of Connecticut residents, are facing a double whammy of financial problems. The operators of the Community Health Centers say they’ve weathered many funding storms like this in recent years but this is one of the worst.

The Republican leader in the U.S. Senate is aiming for a vote on the Republican health care plan next week. The House Republican leader in Hartford will attempt to bring up a vote on a state budget solution next week as well but both are considered highly in doubt.

Blumenthal calls GOP healthcare plan ‘disastrous and deadly’ during tour in Meriden

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MERIDEN — Steep Medicaid cuts proposed in the latest Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act could spell “disastrous and deadly” results for the county’s most vulnerable populations, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said during a tour Friday of the Meriden Community Health Center, where 80 percent of patients depend on Medicaid for health care.

“We are going to be fighting this,” Blumenthal, D-Conn, said. “I refer to it as putting eyeliner on a pig, which would be funny if it weren’t so deadly serious.”

The health center on State Street treats 15,000 residents a year, about a quarter of the city’s population, according to Amy Taylor, regional vice president for Community Health Center. About 80 percent of patients at the facility rely on Medicaid for coverage, she said.

Blumenthal greeted staff and patients as he walked through the preventative care, prenatal, psychology and urgent care wings of the health center Friday morning, noting the importance of preventative care.

“It’s a very powerful experience because what I see is people receiving life saving care they otherwise would not have,” Blumenthal said. “And it’s not just saving lives, it’s saving dollars.”

Blumenthal said the latest Republican vision of the health care plan would slash one-fourth of the funding to Medicaid.

“It’s worse than what we’ve seen before,” Blumenthal said.

Health center staff shared stories about patients, emphasizing that when people lose coverage they fail to seek out preventative care and wind up in the emergency room with bills they cannot afford to pay. Medically induced bankruptcy is the ”biggest cause of bankruptcy in the country,” Blumenthal said.

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Community Health Center receives training grant

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The Community Health Center, which operates clinics around the state including sites in New London and Groton, has received a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Health Resources Services Administration to help health centers around the country train health care professionals, the center announced Monday. 

CHC said the grant funds would be used to:

• Establish postgraduate training programs for nurse practitioners, postdoctoral clinical psychologists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners, doubling the number of health centers with residency programs.

• Train health center representatives who want to begin or advance training programs for health profession students. Currently, about 66 percent of health centers train students.

• Develop or enhance teaching agreements with academic institutions to improve their training programs.

• Implement practice transformation measures to help health care team members practice at the highest level and improve the functioning of the team.

The training and technical assistance will be provided through a series of webinars and learning collaborative sessions using live and recorded telehealth technology, CHC said.

“This grant will allow us to continue to help health centers address the near- and long-term shortage of health care providers by establishing their own post-graduate training programs and by advancing the use of team-based care,” said Margaret Flinter, senior vice president and clinical director of CHC, who is co-principal investigator on the grant with Kerry Bamrick, senior program administrator for the Weitzman Institute.

Telehealth Tackles Medicaid’s Challenges with eConsult Program

Profiled at the NETRC conference in UMass-Amherst, an eConsult program launched in Connecticut has proven that telehealth can cut Medicaid waste, improve access for the uninsured and make doctors more confident.

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 - A first-of-its-kind telehealth program launched in Connecticut two years ago is reducing unnecessary spending, improving care coordination for the hard-to-reach Medicaid population and making primary care doctors more confident in their abilities, simply by using online messaging to determine if specialist referrals are necessary.

The eConsult program developed by Community Health Center in 2015 is now being used in some nine states, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, and has spawned a network of similar programs across the country. Its premise is simple: Give doctors an online resource to ask a few questions and perhaps get a little reassurance that they’re doing the right thing.

“This thing makes people happy,” says Darren Anderson, MD, CHC’s vice president and chief quality officer and director of the Weitzman Institute, a community-based research center founded to help Federally Qualified Health Centers improve primary care services for the underserved.

Community Health Center breaks ground for Knowledge, Technology office in Middletown

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By Cassandra Day, The Middletown Press

MIDDLETOWN >> The head of the Community Health Center said he’s often asked whether, when he founded the facility 45 years ago, he foresaw such a long legacy of patient service.

“Of course, what 20-year-old do you know that doesn’t think he can conquer the world?” joked CEO and founder Mark Masselli Monday during a groundbreaking for the new Knowledge and Technology Center at the facility’s future home on Grand Street.

At least 200 North End and other city residents, patients and local and state dignitaries joined for the ceremonial event on the dirt lot that sits kitty-corner from the CHC’s primary care peace & health building at 605 Main St.

The new three-story, 30,000-square-foot building will house information technology, telehealth, communications, human resources and other offices that comprise CHC’s statewide primary care network, according to the organization.