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Grants will improve health of RI'ers
By Chris Barnett / April 3, 2018 /   Loading Disqus...

The Rhode Island Foundation awards more than $280,000 in grants to seven local organizations for everything from providing medical care to uninsured Rhode Islanders to reducing non-emergency EMS runs.

“Developing an inclusive primary care system that promotes healthy lives is one of our core strategic initiatives. These grants will advance our continuing efforts to make quality health care more accessible and affordable,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

The Foundation awarded the grants through its RIGHA Foundation Fund, which was created after Harvard Pilgrim Health Care acquired the former Rhode Island Group Health Association. In 2010, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and the RIGHA Foundation transferred its $1.6 million endowment to the Rhode Island Foundation. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care continues to make annual contributions to the fund, which promotes the development of an effective primary health care system in the state.

“Philanthropic support can provide the seed funding necessary to take innovative programs like these to the next level. Our goal is to reduce the cost of delivering high quality primary health care to Rhode Islanders,” said Karen Voci, president of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.

Blackstone Valley Community Health Care (BVCHC) received $70,000 to add health coaches to its primary care teams. The goal is to promote health behavior change and bridge the linguistic and cultural barriers between its medical staff and its patients. BVCHC operates Notre Dame Express Health, the only acute care walk-in clinic in Central Falls.

“We provide care to 60 or 70 percent of the population of Central Falls. Deploying health coaches within a single clinical enterprise that can instantly produce clinical data on patients has potential to have a profound impact on the public health of an entire community that has high levels of poverty, unemployment and poor health outcomes,” said Ray Lavoie, executive director.

BVCHC will recruit participants in the Community Health Worker Training program at Rhode Island College. The grant will be used to pay stipends to the participants.

“Their role is to facilitate patient behavior change using common motivational techniques to improve health. Working as health coaches will enable trainees to amass the 1,000 hours of work experience required for certification,” said Dr. Michael Fine, medical director.

The City of Central Falls received $35,000 to help develop partnerships between the city's EMS service and nearby urgent care centers, starting with the urgent care center at the Central Falls Neighborhood Health Station. 

“These partnerships will help us make sure that use EMS is available whenever it is needed, and that Central Falls residents have access to the urgent care and primary care they need. We are creating a more efficient healthcare system for Central Falls residents by working with both hospital emergency departments and the resources we have here in Central Falls,” said Mayor James Diossa. "This has become particular important since Memorial Hospital closed, which made this grant particularly important to the people of Central Falls.”

The goals include improving the delivery of primary health care, reducing instances of non-emergency 911 calls, reducing the number of non-emergent emergency room transports and reducing the number of Central Falls residents being re-admitted to hospitals due to poor management of chronic disease.

Clinica Esperanza received $20,000 to screen people who are likely to be insured within the next five years for chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and to develop treatment programs to manage their health.

“We bear witness to the negative impact that the lack of access and knowledge about healthcare has in the low-income population that we serve. Our patients eat cheap, poor quality, fat- sugar- and salt-laden food. They have limited time to exercise. Many are illiterate, and most have very poor understanding of the impact of diet on health. As a result, more than 50 percent of our patients are overweight or obese,” said Annie DeGroot, medical director.

“Their obesity leads to the development of insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, all of which are more prevalent in low income groups, especially the predominantly Hispanic population that we serve. Lack of access to primary and preventative healthcare, and - perhaps more important -- lack of health literacy -- accelerate disparities in health right here in our community and contribute to the economic instability of communities that are already impoverished,” she explained.

The Rhode Island Free Clinic received $20,000 to provide low-income, uninsured patients with expanded behavioral health services, including psychiatry and medication management, psychotherapy and group counseling.

"The goals are to improve patients’ overall health and encourage them – through increased support and health literacy – to self-manage their conditions," said Marie Ghazal, CEO. 

"We look forward to expanding behavioral health services for uninsured, low-income adults, mobilizing outstanding volunteers, integrating behavioral health services into our medical home model, and improving patient health outcomes by serving more patients, with more visits, in more areas of care than ever before," she said.

Rhode Island Hospital received $50,000 to expand its Connect for Health program from Hasbro Children’s Hospital to an additional location -- its adult primary care clinic in South Providence. Under the program, when patients identify a need, such as adequate food or housing, they will be referred to Connect for Health. Trained health advocates will then help patients access community services to address those needs.

“When your basic needs are not met, you are at increased risk for poor health.  As indicated by research, the majority of health outcomes are attributable to factors outside of traditional health care delivery -- the social and environmental determinants of health,” said Carinel LeGrand, Connect for Health Program Coordinator.

Under the program, when people who visit the clinics identify a need, such as inadequate food or housing, they will be referred to Connect for Health. Trained health advocates will then help patients access community services to address those needs.

“The advocates, mostly Brown University student volunteers, use a web-based, community directory to identify services that match the patient’s needs and map them out based on proximity to the patient’s address. Advocates then develop an action plan for their ‘client’ and follow up with him or her until all needs have been addressed or until the client is equipped to navigate the resource landscape on his or her own,” she said.

The Scituate Health Alliance received $35,000 to support the cost of providing a town nurse. Working in collaboration with primary care providers at Well One, social service agencies, religious and volunteer groups, the local libraries and other partners, the town nurse helps ensure that the community’s primary health care needs are being met.

“The goals are to increase the number of residents who use primary medical and dental care, to increase the number of residents who use the Health Access voucher and to provide the community with access to information about health care services,” said John Marchant, president of the Alliance.

According to the Alliance, Scituate is the only town in the United States to guarantee residents access to primary medical and dental care. 

“Despite the fact that there is a great deal of evidence of the value of primary medical and dental care for prevention, early detection and treatment for health concerns, far too many members of our community need assistance in order to take advantage these services,” said Lynn Blanchette, PhD, RN, vice president of the Alliance. “Retaining the town nurse will enable this program to grow and ensure that unmet primary care needs at the individual and population level are being met, through community assessment, program planning and evaluation.”

The Providence Center received $54,000 to support its School Counseling and Support Program in seven Providence elementary and middle schools. The services for students and families include individual counseling, family counseling, parent training, support groups and assessments.

"Trauma during childhood, poverty, and incarcerated parents are factors that are proven to have a negative effect on a child’s success in school, and later in life," said Deborah O’Brien, President of The Providence Center. "Connecting our school-based behavioral health clinicians with students' primary care providers will help deliver coordinated care that will meaningfully address the social determinants of children’s health."

The goals are to prevent student suspensions, reduce classroom disruptions and increase instructional time at no cost to the district. The program currently operates in West Elementary, Lauro Elementary, Nathan Bishop Middle School, Nathanael Greene Middle School, Gilbert Stuart Middle School, Roger Williams Middle School and West Broadway Middle School.

“A child’s primary care provider often has a critical role in recognizing behavioral issues, and improving connections with these providers will allow our school clinicians to treat these issues more effectively and reduce gaps in services,” said O’Brien.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.

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