A Note about the Flint Water Crisis

File photo.

File photo.

Many of us have been following the headlines regarding the water crisis in Flint, MI.  Our friends at the Michigan Primary Care Association have sent out a newsletter regarding the crisis. The following is an excerpt:

As the Flint Water Crisis continues to unfold, resources continue to take shape alongside the development of short, mid and long term planning. Michigan Primary Care Association reached out to the two Michigan Health Centers serving Flint residents to gain additional insight into the growing demand for testing, monitoring, education, outreach and mental health services – both now and into the unforeseeable future.

Two Michigan Health Centers serve the residents of Genesee County – Hamilton Community Health Network, Inc. and Genesee Community Health Center. Hamilton Community Health Network, a Federally Qualified Health Center, receives funding as a Community Health Center (330E) and a Public Housing Health Center (330I).  Genesee Community Health Center, also a Federally Qualified Health Center, receives funding as a Health Care for the Homeless Health Center (330H) and a Public Housing Health Center (330I).

Inside Hamilton Community Health Network, patient health is a growing concern. “We are seeing an increase in the number of patients visiting our three medical facilities affected by the water crisis,” said Cynthia Edwards, Director of Marketing and Planning for Hamilton. “At our main site, located at 2900 N. Saginaw, we show a 7 percent increase in patient visits from November 2015 to December 2015 with a 6.6 percent increase in January 2016.” Edwards adds “we are seeing an increase in patients who are requesting to have lead level blood testing along with other labs tests they are having done as well as simply coming in and requesting to have lead testing only.” 

In addition to an increase in testing, Hamilton has also seen an increase in adult and children skin rashes and a predictable increase in parental concern with their children’s well-being. “Residents of Flint are not only dealing with the physical risks associated with exposure to lead,” mentions Clarence Pierce, CEO for Hamilton, “but the economical and emotional impact from the crisis as well. Our providers are encountering parents who are concerned about their children, particularly the mental health of their children, now and in the future.”

In total, Hamilton has five sites serving the residents of Genesee County. At their North Pointe site, which has been largely affected by the water crisis, there was a 12.5 percent increase in patients seen from November 2015 to December 2015. Their Burton site also experienced a slight increase in patients at 8.2 percent as some residents are also on the Flint water pipeline. Hamilton anticipates the numbers will continue to grow as awareness grows and additional resources become available. The story is similar at Genesee Community Health Center where patient screening for lead testing continues to increase. “The population we serve at Genesee already has such complex needs that the water crisis just adds one more layer to the numerous issues our patients face each day,” said Honor Potvin, Interim Executive Director at Genesee Community Health Center. “Our social workers estimate they have provided therapy on water crisis related mental health issues to 400 – 600 patients over the last four weeks and our health coaches estimate providing emotional support and/or assistance obtaining bottled water and filters to over 4,000 people in the Flint area since the beginning of January.”

In addition to tracking the Blood Lead Levels of all children under the age of six who receive services at the Health Center, Genesee is sending out letters and directly contacting families to bring them in for testing while simultaneously working to educate families on the meaning of test results and the importance of continuous monitoring. “In addition to understanding what a test result means there is also a need to have families undergo continuous monitoring to ensure an increase or decrease in exposure is tracked and treated,” said Potvin. “An exposure to lead may have occurred in the past, but would not show up in a current test…monitoring is imperative at both ends of the spectrum.” In addition to working to educate and test patients, Genesee is working on securing the necessary supplies for patients, acquire additional lead testing supplies and securing funds to help get their mobile unit operational. “While we are working to becoming a water and filter distribution site, we are providing bottled water for our patients,” adds Potvin. “While we need additional lead testing supplies, we recently received a lead screening device that can provide results within three minutes with just a finger prick enabling staff to quickly identify individuals who should be prioritized for a full blood level test via venous blood draw.” Securing additional funds to get their mobile unit is imperative “as it is a key method to connect with disenfranchised and transient community members, who have surely been affected,” mentions Potvin. “This is our number one ask at this time as we work to secure the necessary resources and funding support to enable the mobile unit to be operational and out in the community providing outreach, education and testing.”

The full text of the MPCA update can be viewed at this link.

We also reached out to our friends at Direct Relief, which issued the following statement: “Direct Relief has made available up to $50,000 in emergency funding for health centers in Flint for towards testing, treatment, or other resources as needed. Our standing inventory of critical medicines and supplies have been made available to health centers during this crisis.”

We will keep you posted on this issue as developments continue.



A School-Based Health Center Opens Its Doors in Iowa

Nolden Gentry stands next to a sign welcoming people to the dental clinic named in his honor at Scavo High School. Courtesy: Des Moines Public Schools.

Nolden Gentry stands next to a sign welcoming people to the dental clinic named in his honor at Scavo High School. Courtesy: Des Moines Public Schools.

We’ve been writing about school based health centers lately because we keep hearing about them — and what they do is pretty exciting when it comes to reducing barriers to care.  In Des Moines, IA,  we heard about a new dental and medical clinic opening in Scavo High School.  The Nolden Gentry Dental Clinic and Primary Health Care (PHC) opened their doors this month as Iowa’s first school clinic.   This the first of its kind in Iowa and  part of a bold plan by Scavo High School to become a full service school.  Scavo High School is an alternative school which aims to help students who are at risk for falling behind in their studies.  It also operates a day care center for teen parents and a food pantry sponsored by the Food Bank of Iowa. The dental clinic  was funded with a $250,000 grant from Delta Dental and two grants from the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation totaling $55,000.  It is named after Nolden Gentry, a longtime attorney and the first African-American member elected to the Des Moines School Board.  Gentry told a reporter with Iowa Public Radio that there was a pressing need for such services among low-income families in the community.  “There are a lot of youngsters who do not have dental insurance and who have dental issues,” Gentry says. “And so what we try to do is to bring to them the opportunity to get basic dental service.”

PHC will operate the medical clinic which will be open 5 days per week, during the school year, from 10 – 2 to serve students and faculty.  The Des Moines School District has plans to provide transportation to the clinic from other area schools for students who need access to dental and medical care.  In addition to the medical and nursing staff, the clinic will also be staffed with a benefit and enrollment specialist who will assist students and their families obtain access to insurance coverage.

You can read more about the new dental and medical clinic at this link.

You can also hear more about it on Iowa Public Radio.

Uninsured Teens in Nebraska Gain Access to Care with a New Health Center

Teen Clinic StaffWe are always on the look out for cool stories about the innovative work Community Health Centers are doing. We stumbled across this gem in Omaha, NE. OneWorld Community Health Centers, Inc., you may remember that we featured OneWorld before on this blog [A Mission and Patients Thrive in Omaha] when we were fortunate enough to see the moving patient impact video on their website. Now we learn that the health center is at it again and just opened a Teen & Young Adult Health Center. The clinic, the first of its kind in Nebraska, provides revolutionary healthcare designed to meet the unique needs of individuals aged 15-24.  The idea came about largely because of the pressing need for healthcare.  Evidently Southeast Omaha has one of the highest rates of uninsured and delayed care for children and adolescents living in poverty.

“It’s a great feeling to open up the doors of this clinic. It is a first step in addressing barriers to health care that most frequently affect this age group and is designed to be a healthcare home for teens and young adults who may not already have a go-to place of care. It is staffed with providers that are trained specifically to aid children, teens and young adults in Southeast Omaha – which has one of the highest uninsured and delayed care rankings for children and adolescents living in poverty; however, it is open to anyone,” said Andrea Skolkin, Chief Executive Officer.

Adolescence is a critical developmental stage for children, marked by accelerated growth and a number of physiological, cognitive, social and emotional changes that occur at the same time. While most adolescents are healthy by traditional medical standards, a significant number of young people experience some type of medical issue by the time they reach their teens. Many youth engage in risky behaviors such as drinking or unprotected sexual activity. Prevention and primary care services are particularly critical for this age group because many of the most serious health problems are potentially preventable. The clinic is focused on integrating primary, preventative care, behavioral health and support services.  To read more about OneWorld and their new teen clinic check out their newsletter at this link.

Provider Week of Action

This week marks the 2016 Provider and Hospital Week of Action. The campaign aims to give a final push to providers on the front lines of healthcare to sign up consumers for health insurance coverage. Led by Enroll America, advocates for healthcare coverage are hoping events across the country will remind people who have yet to sign up for coverage to enroll before the January 31, 2016 deadline.

There are nearly 18 million people who have gained health coverage so far as a result of the Affordable Care Act. But there are still 10.5 million uninsured Americans  out there who are eligible to enroll and have not done so. About half  are between 18-34 years of age, nearly 40 percent of these uninsured are living between 139 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, according to Enroll America.

Reaching these uninsured in no small way depends on local providers. Providers can be a trusted source of information for their patients and the surrounding community. Enroll America’s own research shows that someone who meets with an enrollment assister is 60 percent more likely to successfully enroll in coverage. That is why Community Health Centers are involved in the effort to enroll. Health centers not only trusted local providers, they also have a long history of connecting people to benefits and services. Many health centers already have navigators on site to assist patients with finding coverage and their ability to offer culturally competent services makes them uniquely poised to help. Local health centers from Texas to Pennsylvania will be participating and offering local enrollment events.

To find out more about local events follow the #StayCovered and #GetCovered hashtags on Twitter and Facebook. Download the Provider Week of Action Toolkit for helpful resources to promote open enrollment in your community.

Honoring MLK’s Legacy

MLK2016Every year we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King believed that a great nation is a compassionate nation and that “no individual or nation can be great if it does not have concern for [poverty and deprivation in their midst].”

In fact, Dr. King said “of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman,” during a Medical Committee for Human Rights press conference in 1966.

It is no surprise then that the Community Health Center Movement owes its existence to a remarkable turn of events in U.S. history, and to a number of determined civil rights activists, doctors, and community health leaders who fought to end discrimination and to improve the lives of Americans living in poverty and in desperate need of healthcare.

The tradition of lifting the barriers to healthcare for vulnerable populations continues today in communities across the country. Community Health Centers go beyond just treating patients to also addressing the social determinants of health the factors that impact health such as housing, education, poverty, jobs and nutrition.

Unique Initiatives like the National Association of Community Health Center’s AmeriCorps program—Community HealthCorps—develops tomorrow’s healthcare workforce while promoting healthcare for America’s underserved. Every year Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members honor Dr. King by joining in a day of service. For example, this year’s Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members serving withAltaMed Health Services and the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County will create green spaces, hold a health resource fair, and provide college readiness resources at a local high school. Another Community HealthCorps team, across the country, with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program will engage over 300 families experiencing homelessness in health activities, stressing the importance of physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco cessation. (Visit the program’s national website, to learn more about what other Community HealthCorps teams are doing to inspire the communities they serve to make today a day on, not a day off.)

Through compassionate and culturally appropriate care, health centers provide more than 9,000 communities with quality care while achieving savings for communities in health and prevention. Health centers recognize that the health and social needs of their patients are complex and pervasive. For example, health centers often partner with other local organizations and stakeholders to offer fresh fruit and vegetables in food desert communities or offer computer literacy classes to help patients with the skills they need to be productive.

Determined to provide healthcare for all, health centers honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and give tribute to the many who continue to the struggle for social justice and healthcare equity—today and every day.