Montgomery County will receive $936,000 this year to provide better health care for individuals without health insurance.
The county joins approximately 50 communities nationwide awarded a federal grant from the Community Access Program initiative in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will support the development of a comprehensive, community-wide plan to improve access to health care services.
Katherine Cauley, Ph.D., director of the Center for Healthy Communities and associate professor of community health and of psychology, and Rudoph Arnold, M.D., director of the Miami Valley Health Improvement Council, will serve as co-directors. "The project," says Cauley, "allows Montgomery County to take significant steps toward the goal of 100 percent access, 0 percent disparities and other national health objectives set in Healthy People 2010." Pilot programs will increase outreach efforts, direct and link people to available resources and use advanced technology to coordinate health care and human services.
There are more than 85,000 people -- approximately 15 percent of the total population -- without health insurance in Montgomery County. Many of these individuals are among the "working poor" who do not receive health benefits from their employers because of the type or length of employment. Without benefits that cover preventive, routine visits to a physician's office, residents often seek health care in hospital emergency rooms. Estimates indicate that close to one third of the uninsured are eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or other public health services. Lack of knowledge about existing services and lack of trust in the system are the two reasons most frequently cited by Montgomery County residents for not using available health care resources.
The grant proposal was the brainchild of HealthLink Miami Valley, a broad coalition that has been meeting for 18 months to develop strategies for better integration of health care services. The HealthLink Miami Valley Network includes representatives from the following organizations: the Center for Healthy Communities; the Department of Pediatrics, the Department of Community Health and its Division of Health Systems Management at Wright State University School of Medicine; the Miami Valley Health Improvement Council; the Combined Health District of Montgomery County; the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association; CareSource; Montgomery County Job and Family Services; the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board; the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; the Gem City Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Society; the Dayton Foundation; and the Health Ministries Association of Southwest Ohio.
Working with the Medicaid outreach efforts of the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services, specially trained outreach workers with the HealthLink Miami Valley project will assist in matching residents with health care providers. Individuals without health care or health care insurance will be identified, contacted, informed about existing resources and directed to needed health care services.
Building upon existing technology in the health care field in the Dayton area, the HealthLink Miami Valley project will also integrate two information technology systems. The Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association supports the nationally recognized Greater Dayton Area Health Information Network, which helps hospitals and health care providers improve health care services and quality of care. The Montgomery County Human Services Levy supports AgencyLink, a management information system being piloted as a national model in the Dayton community, to assist human services providers in linking people to available resources. By integrating these two information systems, health and human services providers can reduce paperwork, increase coordination and integration of services and better serve the residents of Montgomery County.
For example, if an elderly woman with diabetes arrives at a local emergency room because of a dizzy spell, she will be treated and generally informed about her disease and the community services available to her. Her emergency room visit may be her only treatment, even though she obviously needs support for a chronic condition. With the integration of GDAHIN and AgencyLink, she can receive detailed information about follow up care and services and be linked to appropriate resources immediately while receiving emergency care.
At the end of this planning year, the HealthLink Miami Valley project hopes to implement a long-term plan to ensure that every Montgomery County resident has access to health care services. Integrating health care service delivery will strengthen the community's safety net, creating a healthier Dayton community.
The Center for Healthy Communities and Wright State's School of Medicine will serve as fiscal agents for the grant.