Following a long day of advocating on The Hill, then a rousing pep talk by HHS Secretary Azar and HRSA Administrator Sigounas, it was time to for health center representatives to put their noses back to the grindstone and partake in various educational sessions. Topics offered ranged from advocacy to compliance to Board governance and just about everything in-between.
Compass CEO, Summer Kirby, had the opportunity to represent Compass during a session highlighting Innovative Responses to the Social Determinants of Health Using PRAPARE (Protocol for Responding to and Assessing Patients’ Assets, Risks & Experiences). PRAPARE was designed to help clinics address the various needs of their clientele.
FUN FACT: Compass was one of only five nationwide centers to receive a PRAPARE grant awarded by The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).
Samantha Walls, O&E Specialist, attended sessions centered on advocacy including motivating special populations and sharing stories in the social media age. It was also announced during a session that this year’s National Health Center Week (NHCW) theme is ‘Celebrating Health Centers: Home of America’s Health Care Heroes’.
Summer and Samantha look forward to discussing what they’ve learned from their respective sessions with the ‘Compass Crew’. They also look forward planning how best they might be able celebrate Compass’ heroes this coming August during NHCW, from our providers, to our nurses, our reception team, to our patients, community, and everyone in-between who makes Compass an amazing place to work and one of the most beloved health centers in the area.
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During NACHC’s Friday session, advocates from all across the nation had the opportunity to hear from a few of the biggest names in healthcare. First up was the recently confirmed Secretary Alex Michael Azar II of Health and Human Services (HHS). A strong proponent of community health centers, Secretary Azar stated, “We see you not just as vital partners in our movement toward a health system that delivers quality, affordable care for all Americans—we see you as pioneers in this effort already.” (X)
He noted how health centers were leading the charge in quality data collection, improving patient outcomes, and transparency/communicating information, such as pricing. Recalling one encounter, Secretary Azar, having served as Deputy Director of HHS, was in need of an echocardiogram. While completing the registration process, he discovered he would need to be admitted in order to undergo the procedure. Knowing the, likely, high costs associated with the process being outlined for the procedure, he made several attempts to determine the overall rate but was told that information was not available. After much persistence, he was told the procedure would cost approximately $5,500. He then asked for the cost at the rate negotiated with his insurance company but, once again, was met with “that information is unavailable”.
After some individual research, he was able to find a local provider’s office that would deliver the service for around $500. Due to his profession, he had experience in accessing sites and resources with said information but noted, for your average patient, that degree of research is unfeasible, and that’s where health centers come in. Health centers work diligently to try and help ensure patients from each end of the socioeconomic spectrum receive quality care at a price that comes as close to fitting their budget, as possible.
Before departing, Secretary Azar reported he had the distinction of testifying the day before on the President’s budget yesterday and was supportive of the $400 million set aside for centers to help combat substance abuse, as well as the $150 million earmarked for under-served rural areas.
In his role as Secretary, Mr. Azar is looking forward to seeing, as well as assisting in, the continued expansion of health centers and is hoping we can set a goal of assisting 30 million patients nationally (up from 27 million) by year’s end.
Next to take the stage was Dr. George Sigounas, Administrator of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Like Secretary Azar, Dr. Sigounas spoke very highly of community health centers. Dr. Sigounas specifically spoke to health centers and telehealth. Stating he had worked with HRSA since telehealth department was in its infancy and the concept was still very much considered “science fiction”, he was proud to see 57% of health centers already utilizing or were in the process of implementing telehealth in some way. As is one of the tenets of community health centers, quality affordable care should be accessible to everyone, and if that means combating barriers such as geography or lack of suitable transportation, community health centers will attempt to do all that they can to address those issues.
If you haven’t signed up to be a health center advocate, we’d appreciate having you as a part of our team. You can sign up by clicking on the following link:
Following a strategy session with Ohio’s Primary Care Association, which included a pep talk from Board Chair and Community Health Services CEO Joe Liszack, Ohio’s advocates (including Compass CEO, Summer Kirby and Outreach and Enrollment Specialist, Samantha Walls) turned out in force to help spread the message to the Buckeye state’s legislators about the crucial services health centers provide for their constituents.
Photos Courtesy of OACHC
The morning started early with a meeting with Abigail Duggan, Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Sherrod Brown, and ended with advocates getting a few moments with the Senator, himself. Advocates opened with a ‘thank you’ for the Senator for his continued support of health centers and their funding. It was asked that the he continue to support the 340B program, a program which helps lower the cost of prescriptions for patients, as well as allows health centers to reinvest incoming funds back into their local communities. Furthermore, he was asked to support a Telehealth bill that would allow reimbursement for such services which would be extremely beneficial for clinics, such as Compass, who service patients where it may be difficult to travel in-town for care due to geography or for elderly patients who have difficulty traveling due to disabilities.
Next on the agenda was a meeting with Gregory Brooks, Legislative Director for Representative Brad Wenstrup. As with Senator Brown, the similar set of asks were delivered. An extra ask was that the Congressman sign the House’s annual health center support letter, known as the Bilirakis-Green letter. Mr. Brooks assured Ohio’s advocates that the letter was on Dr. Wenstrup’s list of “Things to Do” and, later that evening, it was reported, that he had signed the letter before the 5:00 PM deadline. (If you have a minute, maybe you could take to social media and thank Congressman Wenstrup for his support! Tell him @CompassOhio sent you!)
The final meeting of the day was with Seth Gold, Legislative Assistant to Senator Rob Portman. While advocates spent some time delving into the same asks, many also spent time discussing several budget initiatives promoted to help combat the opioid epidemic, a cause near-and-dear to the Senator’s heart.
All-in-all, Ohio’s advocates wrapped the day up successfully with an added signature on the House’s health center support letter, as well as words of encouragement from the state’s legislators for the work that health centers and their staff do.
Also, not to brag, but we’ve decided the Buckeye state has the best looking group of advocates out there!
In case you haven’t already heard, a deal over the budget has been struck by both the House and the Senate. It was then signed into law by the President a few hours later. Part of the package includes an extension of Community Health Center funding for two years!
To say this was a long, hard fought battle is an understatement. Between the media conferences, phone calls, emails sent, rallies attended, and the red shirts worn, advocates here at home and across the nation have been responding in force and showing up in droves to represent Community Health Centers and, more importantly, the approximately 27 million Americans they serve.
We think it’s safe to say, on behalf of the nation’s Community Health Centers, thank you for supporting us and helping ensure we can continue to do what we enjoy which is helping ensure every member of a community has access to affordable quality healthcare.
We wear red for the more than 2000 patients we have the privilege of providing care for. We wear red for the patients who, many for the first time in years, can afford to see a provider because of the sliding fee program we’re able to offer. We wear red for the patients who successfully completed integrated substance abuse treatment with and for those still working to achieve their goals of an addiction-free life. We wear red for the children who have and who are overcoming challenges and improving their daily lives through our pediatric occupational therapy program.
We wear red because, since the expiration of Community Health Center funding starting October 2017, 9 million Americans have been at risk of losing access to affordable health care. We wear red to show Congress that Community Health Centers are important staples of healthy communities and that there can be no more waiting for the millions of Americans who rely on Community Health Centers for their care! We will be wearing red tomorrow to show our support for the 2000 Southern Ohioans and 27 other million Americans who depend on Community Health Centers for their care.
We encourage you to show your support for Compass and the nation’s other Community Health Centers and all of the services they help provide by wearing red tomorrow Tuesday, February 6th. Share your pictures via social media with the hashtag #RedAlert4CHCs and don’t forget to tag your Members of Congress. For more information, please visit The Health Advocacy Network.
Despite progress in early November in the form of Houses’s Championing Healthy Kids Act, the community health center’s “Fix the Cliff” issue is still far from resolved. And now, it seems, there’s talk of another delay to the critical safety net funding until after the first of the year.
Understandably, Congress has had a rather full plate moving into the new year. However, the lack of movement concerning health center funding is continuing to take its toll on the nation’s health centers and the communities they serve. Presently, health centers are reporting difficulty recruiting providers and purchasing equipment with some sites discussing closure due to funding uncertainty. (X)
Recent estimates suggest 27 million, or 1 in 12 Americans, receive care from a community health center. For many of these Americans, health centers are the only viable option within a considerable distance. Because health centers provide care for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay, the inability to properly staff or equip a center, or the closure of even one site could be the difference of life or death for many in a community.
That’s why it’s as important as ever that you take action TODAY and demand your Members of Congress recommit to fixing community health center funding before the end of the year.
The U.S. Capitol may be hundreds of miles away but readers should understand the actions our leaders take have a direct and immediate impact on our community.
A case in point is an imperiled health care program that already delivers results for the American taxpayer: Community Health Centers. They now serve 1 in 12 Americans, or 27 million people. Health centers don’t just save lives, they also lower health care costs, create jobs, and reduce hospital visits so that fewer dollars are spent on “sick care.” But unless Congress acts by the end of this month to extend their funding, the consequences for these health centers and their patients will be drastic.
The program would be reduced by approximately 70%. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) itself has projected that the impact would be dramatic: closure of 2,800 health center locations, elimination of more than 50,000 jobs, and a loss of access to care for more than 9 million patients. Keep in mind this is a program that has been in place for more than 50 years and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Right now more than 75 national organizations, representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, health centers, children, patients, the faith community, financial institutions and health care industry partners, are banding together and calling on lawmakers to extend health center funding before September 30.
Please help us bring this end of month deadline to our lawmakers attention and ask them to act now. Time is running out! For information on how you can get involved and contact your elected leaders, visit www.hcadvocacy.org today.
This week, Compass staff Summer Kirby (CEO), Eva Gitome (CFO), and Erin Trapp (Clinical Director) traveled to San Diego to attend National Association of Community Healthcare Center’s (NACHC) annual Community Health Institute (CHI) and Expo. While there they looked for opportunities to network with representatives from Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHCs) from all across the nation, as well as attend general and individualized informational sessions on topics vital to community health center (CHC) operations and interests.
During the opening general session, participants were greeted by new NACHC Board Chair Jim Luisi. Luisi took the opportunity to remind the audience of the fast approaching FQHC fiscal cliff and the important role advocates will play in the coming weeks. They also heard from a community health center patient Anna Arellano, who said community health centers were the key to helping her live a healthier life.
Individualized session topics included discussions on how to improve work flow to identify and address the socioeconomic needs of patients, either through in-house means or through referral sources. Another session focused on how to reduce dependency on grant funding should reductions to the federal budget be ratified. There was also a session on up-to-the-minute updates from Capitol Hill, with special emphasis on funding, Medicaid, telehealth and more.
One overarching theme of the convention has been the pressing reality of the upcoming FQHC fiscal cliff. If Congress does not act by September 30, 2017 community health centers stand to lose upwards of 70% of their funding. This funding is vital to ensuring community health centers can continue to deliver high quality, affordable health care to all members of the community, regardless of their ability to pay.
That’s why it’s imperative you sign up as an ADVOCATE TODAY, and tell your legislators that good health and FQHC funding is important to you.
On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, I was honored to receive an invitation to meet and speak with Senator Bernie Sanders who was invited to come here to hear about some of the issues we are facing together. Organizers worked hard to coordinate with the Senator’s staff, so that many representatives from our community would have a chance to speak.
After arriving at the Vern Riffe Center on the campus of Shawnee State University, and being introduced to the panelists, it was clear the atmosphere was filled with excitement. This event created an opportunity to hear real life experiences from real people that were there to advocate and educate on behalf of our community with one of our nationally elected, political leaders.
Each panelist shared their account of specific topics, including one father’s personal story of caring for a special needs child, another speaker was a behavioral health counselor who works with the addicted population, there was a union leader who talked about the value of work to a person’s self esteem and more. Senator Sanders embraced all of the speakers and topics, added his views, and opened up the discussion to those in the audience who also had a chance for their voice to be heard. I was asked to speak on the topic of Health care, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the opiate epidemic. Below is the text of the healthcare story I shared with my community that day.
I am a native resident. After graduating from Notre Dame High School, I moved to Columbus and completed my undergraduate degree while working full-time as a college student. My husband and I came home to Scioto County from the Dayton area where I worked for Wells Fargo, and we had our first child. Now, our family and home is back here in Portsmouth. After spending 15+ years in the financial industry and volunteering in various organizations in our community, my path transitioned to Compass Community Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center, where we are bound by federal statute and our guiding mission to care for all patients, regardless of their insurance status.
My understanding and perspectives have changed.
Healthcare issues, specifically the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the opiate epidemic and substance abuse, are commonly misunderstood topics. The importance of these issues extend beyond party lines and impact all constituents, regardless of one’s education, upbringing or religion. Medicaid expansion was, is, and continues to be, a significantly positive impact in communities all across Ohio and the United States. While we may be at the center of the opiate epidemic, we are not unlike other communities across the nation.
Medicaid expansion enables access to care for services like primary care, mental health, addiction treatment recovery and general healthcare needs. It is common practice to connect with individuals who have not been able to access these services for core health needs, some results included an inability to maintain employment, addiction, and overusing emergency rooms and urgent care facilities to serve as a primary care provider. In my daily work, I see improvements in health outcomes due to the ACA and the commitment to Medicaid expansion.
Some highlights include:
1,100 men, in their mid-twenties, were able to access treatment services with The Counseling Center, a 35+ year alcohol and drug treatment agency serving residents from many Ohio counties.
That same organization celebrated 245 births for recovery babies (born to mothers in recovery).
One provider speaks of his patient finding herself unemployed for the first time in her life as a result of the economic downturn. As a diabetic that lost her coverage, she found herself in the ER due to lack of access to medical needs. She was able to regain access through Medicaid expansion and is now reporting her diabetes is controlled.
Employed individuals working in entry level positions also have access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
Cost, economic impact and sustainability of the program are core components of this discussion. One of the points commonly overlooked is the economic engine this program creates.
Medicaid expansion enabled my organization to hire additional providers, expand care for primary, mental health and women’s health as well as supplemental clinical and support staff.
The organization previously noted, The Counseling Center, added 67 jobs equating to $2.3 million in additional payroll.
These are but a few examples of investments; dollars that support our economy, goods being purchased, individuals seeking higher education and overall enhancements to the good health of the community.
Simply put, it’s a complex equation. The real impact for individuals with access to health care enables employment, healthier lifestyles and community support that is a positive health and economic driver.
Portsmouth residents recently had the opportunity to conduct a town hall style discussion with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at Shawnee State University. The event included a panel of community leaders who took the time to discuss important issues in our area. One such leader was Compass Community Health’s own Summer Kirby who highlighted the work of Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHC), of which Senator Sanders is an avid supporter. Kirby explained to the capacity crowd how FQHC’s work as a safety net for the community’s most vulnerable by providing quality, affordable care to all, regardless of their ability to pay.
Summer Kirby detailed how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and particularly Medicaid expansion, gave many Ohioans greater access to care, some for the first time in their lives. Kirby explained, for many expansion is a safeguard during times of difficulty or transition. She spoke of an unemployed woman who was unable to meet the costs of her diabetic prescriptions and supplies and couldn’t get in to regularly see her primary care provider. As a result, she sought medical attention only when it was critical to her survival and always via emergency care services. Thanks to Medicaid expansion coverage, she was able to afford to see her primary care provider regularly and regain control of her diabetes. Today, she is employed and has moved over to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and routinely visits her primary care provider.
In her remarks, Kirby discussed how affiliated behavioral health provider The Counseling Center has successfully assisted 1100 men in their mid-20s with addiction treatment and recovery since Medicaid expansion (prior to expansion, many low income adults ages 19-64 would not have qualified for the program). The Counseling Center’s Stepping Stone Program for addicted mothers has also seen 245 recovery babies for Scioto County and Ohio mothers, since they first started tracking the number in 2009.
Not only has Medicaid expansion given Ohioans greater access to care, it has also impacted communities economically. Since expansion in 2013, The Counseling Center has added 67 new jobs resulting in $2.3 million in payroll, much of which is cycled back into the local economy.
Historically, FQHC’s have received strong support from all sides of the political spectrum. However, Compass is always in need of voices from the community who will attest to the important work FQHC’s are doing, or how important a strong Medicaid program is to the health of the community. Sign up to be a health center and community advocate today!