Health Centers Help Save A Million Hearts

Champions2014_FacebookThe Million Hearts® initiative has recognized 30 public and private health care practices and systems as 2014 Million Hearts® Hypertension Control Champions, and Community Health Centers are among those being recognized.  The goal of the national effort is to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.  The Million Hearts® Hypertension Control Challenge is a competitive challenge to identify practices, clinicians, and health systems that have worked with their patients to achieve hypertension control rates at or above 70%. These health center Champions used a variety of hypertension control strategies to accomplish that thanks to innovations in health information technology and electronic health records, patient communication, and healthcare team approaches.

“Our goal for next year is that more Community Health Centers will be recognized as Champions in this very important initiative,” said Ron Yee, MD, NACHC’s Chief Medical Officer.  “There is unprecedented commitment from the health center community to reduce the risk for heart disease and save lives through prevention and innovative clinical and community interventions.  We look forward to going deeper and broader to spread this impactful work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in heart attack and stroke prevention.“

The health center Champions are:

Denver Health Community Health Services, Denver, CO*

East Jordan Family Health Center,  East Jordan, MI*

Family Health Centers of San Diego, San Diego, CA*

P.S. Rudie Medical Clinic, Duluth, MN*

Peninsula Community Health Services, Bremerton, WA*

Roane County Family Health Care, Spencer, WV*

Southwest Montana Community Health Center, Butte, MT*

WinMed Health Services, Cincinnati, OH*

Good healthcare does make a difference, not just in cost-savings (to the tune of $24 billion a year from reduced visits to the hospital and ERs), but in lives saved.  This is especially important to consider when Americans suffer 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes each year. Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease and stroke—is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, 2,200 people die from cardiovascular diseases—that’s nearly 800,000 Americans each year, or 1 in every 3 deaths.

Visit this link to read more about how NACHC is participating in this important national effort.


New Online Resource Showcases the Historic Legacy of Health Centers

website screen shotNACHC has launched a new online resource featuring the unique history and accomplishments of America’s Community Health Centers. The new site comes as health centers celebrate 50 years as a vital movement in expanding access to quality and affordable primary and preventive healthcare services to millions of uninsured and medically underserved people nationwide. Features include an interactive timeline of key milestones in the health center movement; archive videos and photographs documenting the health center movement; and infographics, badges, and  other communications tools to spread the word about health centers.

The new site comes as NACHC plans a host of anchor  events in conjunction with its 2015 conference programs and other special activities around the 50th anniversary. The goal of the 50th anniversary campaign is to not only celebrate the people and achievements of the health center movement, but also bring into focus the value of health centers to the American healthcare system—today and in the future. Celebration events and activities will take place throughout the year.  To keep up with 50th anniversary campaign follow #CHC50 on Twitter.


Making an Impassioned Case for the Funding Cliff

Once again, the importance of fixing the health center funding cliff has hit the presses.  First, in Washington State, we read the impassioned case that Teresita Batayola, CEO  of International Community Health Services, makes for preserving health center funding in her state.  She writes in today’s Bellevue Reporter:

“The majority of our patients are our state’s most marginalized: new immigrants, seniors, refugees, those with low incomes, limited-English speaking, the unemployed, and people who are uninsured and underinsured. We provide vital programs such as those targeting women with breast and cervical cancers; feeding and nutrition for infants and small children; community-based health education outreach; and language and interpretation programs that allow us to reach out to non- or limited-English speaking patients in their own language… Investing in community health centers and primary care has never been a partisan issue. President George W. Bush championed health center expansion. We remain hopeful that community health centers’ traditionally bipartisan support in Congress will translate into a fix to this funding cliff and allow us to continue serving Washington’s most vulnerable residents.”

We also like this letter to the editor in the Fayetteville Observer by Amanda Alexander,  who notes that “some 62 million people nationwide struggle with little or no access to a primary care provider. We are making progress at Stedman-Wade Health Services, Inc. DBA Wade Family Medical Center and Stedman Family Dental Center… Yet, even as demand for our services continues to grow, a critical source of funding that helps us meet that demand is set to expire if Congress doesn’t act.”

Stay tuned as we collect more letters and headlines about the health center funding cliff from across the country.

Raising the Roof in Goshen

DSCN3769Maple Health Care Center before... 

As health centers mark their 50th year of existence, we went in search of stories that represent the spirit and mission of the Community Health Center Movement. Thank goodness Don Yost reached out to us. Yost is the Chief Story Teller for Maple City Health Care Center, located in Goshen, IN. Of his unusual job title Yost explains that part of the center’s mission is to “to articulate and promote our experience as a sustainable model.” And when it comes to telling the stories, Yost is very good at his job.

Yost told us that Maple City Health Care Center is  located in what used to be the fire department. When it first opened its doors, the center had very little in the way of money and resources.  That is why when the health center needed a new roof in 1998, the leadership and staff invited donors, neighbors, and patients to help.”

“A hodgepodge of people responded,” he said. “Some spoke Spanish. Some spoke English with an Appalachian twang. Some spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. It could have been another Tower of Babel, but we all seemed to understand each other enough to get the rafters aligned (more or less) and the tar paper nailed.”

By 3:00 in the afternoon, the project was 80 percent finished but everyone was getting tired, including the volunteers who showed up. The project’s leaders tried to call it a day but the volunteers would not hear of it. By the time darkness fell, the roof was finished.

“We realized that more than the roof had been changed,” said Yost. “Some of the neighborhood volunteers would become patients. All of the patients who helped with the roof became donors of their time. The donors who helped with the roof now felt part of the neighborhood. Ten years later, one of the men who had helped replace the roof, was inside the center as a patient. As he walked down the hall, he proudly pointed upward and announced to all within earshot, ‘I put on the roof. This is my building.’ ”

Maple City Health Care Center’s story is similar to the start of the Community Health Center Movement, which began with a group of people who saw a need and moved to fill it. Today, 50 years later, the mission has expanded from coast to coast because health centers are built from the bottom up by members of the  community.  Sometimes all it takes to build a movement is for people to show up and raise the roof.



Post Card from California

Redwood Coast Medical Services health center in Gualala, CA

Redwood Coast Medical Services health center in Gualala, CA

Too often when we talk about the health center funding cliff people ask what is at stake.  To answer that question for ourselves we went in search of stories and connected with Pat Owings, Communications Coordinator with Redwood Coast Medical Services (RCMS). The health center is located in Gualala, a small community overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sitting right on the edge of the rugged coast of Northern California.  Pat told us, “Gualala is about 120 miles north of San Francisco, and roads to and from the small unincorporated community are mountainous and narrow. Weather conditions, especially in winter, can cause difficult and dangerous driving conditions.”

That is why the services RCMS provides are so critical.  The health center is the sole provider of medical care to a community of approximately 8,500 residents.  Because of the remote location, and the nearest urban area, hospital or emergency room is about a two hour drive away, RCMS provides two unique services that make living in this wild but beautiful area a little easier for both residents and visitors:

* Urgent Care Medical Services after hours.

* Visiting Nurse Services with home visits made by a Skilled Nursing Team.

These services are not normally included in the scope of service for the Community Health Center model of care, but they are desperately needed.  They are also very costly.  Thanks to the vision and commitment of RCMS leadership and its board (health centers are directed by patient majority governing boards), fundraising and the financial support of the community have helped make this service possible.  In an unusual step, the community voted by special ballot to allow property taxes to be used to help support expanding  RCMS’ Urgent Care to on-call coverage on weekends and holidays from 8 a.m. to  6 p.m.   Expanded Services funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration also helped.

The RCMS Urgent Care Medical Team is headed up by Physician Assistants who  are able to treat a wide range of urgent medical issues, ranging from severe colds, flu, and lacerations, to more serious medical concerns relating to cardiac problems, stroke and severe injuries.  Having Urgent Care service available means patients are treated effectively at the health center and costly visits (not to mention long drives) to emergency rooms are avoided.

And speaking of long drives,  the nearest home health services are almost 60 miles away.  That is why RCMS operates one of very few Visiting Nurses program in the nation.  RCMS nurses make in-home visits Mondays through Fridays to patients who are homebound either due to a long- or short-term illness or injury. This service allows seniors avoid long drives to hospitals and specialists out of the area and is credited with eliminating or shortening hospital stays and/or reducing the time spent in rehabilitation facilities.

What makes the health center funding cliff so worrisome for RCMS, is the health center stands to lose up to $910,000 in funding if Congress does not fix the funding cliff.  That means patients who rely on RCMS as their sole provider could lose access to care or have some of the vital services cut.  No matter how you do the math, the funding cliff will affect people who need care in Gualala, CA.

For more information about the funding cliff visit this link.