Three Sonoma County health centers will receive federal funds aimed at site improvements that will allow the clinics to accommodate a wave of newly insured patients and better integrate aspects of medical care that include mental, dental and preventative health service.
The goal is part of a national health care movement toward comprehensive, patient-focused treatment and away from the traditional model that treats a single symptom or illness when individuals visit their doctor.
Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, Alliance Medical Center in Healdsburg and West County Health Centers each received $250,000 to help fund facilities improvements. Through renovations, construction, new exam rooms and new hires, the clinics hope to bring what used to be viewed as disparate medical services into an integrated service model known as a “patient-centered medical home.”
The three health centers are among 147 community clinics across that country that received $35 million in grants under the Affordable Care Act. In California, 21 health centers received a total of $5.3 million.
At Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, the funds are key to the success of a $360,000 project that will renovate 1,400 square feet of office space recently vacated near the Southwest Community Health Center campus.
The project will add seven new exam rooms and a new dental room, as well as space for an integrated care team that will address “the full spectrum of patient needs,” said Laurie Lynn Hogan, a spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.
Hogan said the care team will include three new medical providers whose work will be integrated with an existing mental health professional, a perinatal health educator, a registered nurse and a clinical team assistant.
“The idea is that each patient has a whole team of providers available to them in addition to their primary care providers,” Hogan said.
The one-stop, team approach allows for a “warm hand-off” of patients between the primary care doctor and the mental health provider.
“It dramatically increases the ability to intervene in crisis situations,” Hogan said. “And it increases the amount of follow-up care that can be provided because there’s already a relationship established.”
Hogan said it also reduces the stigma attached to mental health services, “especially for the Latino community, because the introduction is made by a trusted source of medical care.”
The renovation and new hires will ultimately allow the health center to accommodate an additional 10,200 patient visits a year, as well as 1,288 on-site dental screenings.
At Alliance Medical Center, the federal funds will be used to expand the Healdsburg clinic by three exam rooms, said Beatrice Bostick, Alliance’s chief executive officer. Another physician will be hired to care for patients newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re expecting over 1,000 new patients to be seeking care at Alliance Medical Center over the next six months. We’re pro-actively trying to build the space to accommodate them.”
“To create a patient-centered medical home you need to do things to your existing structures and existing buildings to better support the concept of team-based medical care,” said Mary Szecsey, executive director of West County Health Centers.
Szecsey said her organization will use the money to make improvements at the Forestville Wellness Center, which focuses on health education, healthy lifestyles and managing care so patients can better improve their own health.