Tag Archives: community clinics

Community health centers often fail to provide easy access to oral care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Locating both dental and medical providers at a community health center can better ensure that low-income patients get the oral health services they need, in part by enabling these providers to more easily coordinate patient-centered care.

Yet by these measures, many clinics in California’s safety net system are falling short. Only one third of the state’s community health centers offer dental care, a team from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) has found.

James Crall

James Crall

“Co-location of dental providers in primary care settings can greatly improve accessibility of dental care in several ways,” the team said in a paper published in the September issue of CHPR’s Health Policy Brief. “The co-location model can enable patients to obtain more than one service in a single trip. It can also make it easier for medical providers to screen and refer high-risk patients to dentists who will see them and allow medical and dental providers to easily collaborate case management.”

Equipping and staffing clinics to offer dental care requires additional spending but co-location is an important step to consider, particularly in communities facing shortages of Medicaid dental providers, according to the paper. “The decision by organizations co-locate is likely to have a significant and positive impact on access to dental care and improved oral health of the population,” the study’s authors concluded. Continue reading

Essential component of reform will require more staff, training

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

When we think about the growing demands health reform will place on community health centers (assuming that we are thinking about community health centers at all – and we should be) we tend to think about the shortage of primary care doctors in underserved communities, and the increasing numbers of soon-to-be-insured patients needing such care.

Joanne KenenJoanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) is AHCJ’s health reform topic leader. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources, please send them to joanne@healthjournalism.org.

According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, about 20 million patients get their primary health care needs at more than 8,000 U.S. locations. I’ve seen various projections of how that will grow under health reform (depending on fun ding and other factors) but the NACHC says it could double, to 40 million, within another five years.

There’s another aspect to the community health center workforce – one that, frankly, I had never thought about until I got a release about a set of grants a few weeks ago from a small foundation that focuses on community health. The clinics don’t just need doctors and nurses. They need people who can just run the places – who can make appointments and keep records, and do the coding and billing, and handle the health IT, and do health outreach in the community, and the case management. And they need people who speak a bunch of languages and be culturally sensitive. In other words, they need all kinds of people who can do the work necessary for these clinics to become effective “medical homes.”

So the RCHN Community Health Foundation recently announced grants of about $150,000 to $200,000 each to five very different community health groups, in five quite different settings. (On the foundation’s home page you can find links to some of the coverage it has gotten.)

  1. Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services Center, Clarksdale, Miss.
  2. Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, New York
  3. Penobscot Community Health Care, Bangor, Maine
  4. Seattle Indian Health Board, Seattle
  5. Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Wai’anae, Hawaii

The details vary, but they are developing training programs (which can be done during the work day), partnerships with local schools, community and four-year colleges, internships, outreach to potential entry-level workers who hadn’t thought of this career path, worker retention programs – with an eye both toward their own needs, their workers’ future advancement, and job creation in their communities, including veterans. In some cases, they will be designing their resources and programs with a clear eye toward having them spread, to be available and useful to other clinics, other communities.

Chances are, you won’t be covering these five specific clinics. But the challenges these grants are aimed at exist everywhere and are ripe material for covering:

  • How are clinics in your areas preparing – not just expanding physically (there was a lot of money in the 2009 stimulus package for that), but how are they expanding in other, qualitative dimensions?
  • Have they begun the transition to medical homes?
  • Have they installed electronic medical records? (They are doing so at a faster pace than many more resource-rich practices.)
  • Who is working for them?
  • How are they being trained – and retained – for the coming changes in the delivery and financing of health care?

You – and your reader, listeners, and viewers – may be quite surprised by some of the innovative, change-embracing answers.