THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH—Health care offered at homeless shelter

Many of Columbus’ homeless not only battle the elements, but struggle with illnesses, too. Because most don’t have primary care doctors, they can crowd emergency departments, which are supposed to treat severe injuries and acute, life-threatening illnesses.

But a new recuperative care program at a homeless shelter just west of Downtown aims to stem those visits.

PrimaryOne Health, which operates government-funded community health centers in Columbus, is working with the YMCA and Community Shelter Board, which runs the Van Buren shelter at 595 Van Buren Dr. Six beds opened there on April 18, said John Tolbert, PrimaryOne’s community services director.

It’s part of a six-month test program, but there is an expectation is that it will become permanent because of the need, he said. The respite center will provide transitional housing, meals and case management in addition to short-term medical care to patients whose chronic health problems often are exacerbated by living on the street or in shelters.

The center is staffed by PrimaryOne Health’s Health Care for the Homeless program. A nurse is on site from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The shelter’s staff takes care of patients other times.

It is modeled on similar efforts elsewhere, including a center in Boston that opened 20 years ago, said Lori Summers-Corey, PrimaryOne Health’s homeless program coordinator.

“There’s long been a dire need here in Columbus,” she said.

Health problems within the homeless community can worsen because of poor diets, exposure to the elements and limited access to transportation, Summers-Corey said.

She said nearby cities have similar centers, including a 14-bed program in a Cincinnati nursing home and a 10-bed program in a Louisville, Ky., shelter. The average stay in such centers is 40 days, she said.

In Columbus, emergency department staff members will assess patients and those who would benefit from care at the Van Buren Center will be transferred by cab, she said. The center also will provide bus passes.

Sara Loken, a shelter-board spokeswoman, said the program came together after PrimaryOne Health approached the YMCA, which then went to the shelter board.

The six–month pilot program will cost about $71,000, Summer-Corey said. Funding will come through Medicaid. Two of the six beds are now occupied, but all are expected to be filled soon.

Jeff Klingler, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Hospital Council, said 6,100 homeless individuals visited Columbus hospital emergency rooms in 2014. Of those, 625 were admitted.

Summer-Corey said the goal is to eventually have 20 to 25 beds in Columbus. The program could be expanded inside the Van Buren Center or moved somewhere else.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH —Columbus schools adding more Nationwide Children’s mini-clinics

Columbus City Schools and Nationwide Children’s Hospital are expanding student health-care mini-clinics to eight more buildings in Linden and the West Side.The district opened the first seven clinics in the past school year after it announced in November that the hospital would provide nurse practitioners and medical equipment for the program. The clinics rolled out between November and late January, and since then 251 students have visited on average twice each. Of those, 70 students who hadn’t seen a doctor in more than two years have received primary-care services, said Jessie Cannon, director of community wellness for Children’s .“We really feel like this is filling a gap,” Cannon said.

The visits can prompt referrals to other health-care providers and assist uninsured patients in securing insurance “because more often than not they are eligible for Medicaid,” Cannon said. The clinics also can provide wellness services such as physicals.

Though nurse practitioners can’t do everything a doctor can, the district said they can handle many of the health-care issues that a student might present. They often treat common illnesses such as sore throats, ear infections and asthma. They also can provide prescription medication and vaccines. Students with more complex problems will be referred to a doctor, including physicians at Children’s.

The locations for the mini-clinics will be “data driven,” based on medical need, infant mortality and other information, said district spokesman Scott Varner. Schools without the clinics still have access to school nurses, who can direct students to the clinics — open one to two days a week — or to other health-care providers, Varner said.

In addition to the mini-clinics, Children’s also offers behavioral-health services at 27 district schools. That program helped more than 400 students last year receive help for depression, anxiety or other social or emotional problems that are known to hinder students’ academic success, Cannon said.

In March, the Columbus Board of Education also approved plans for a Downtown health-care center for district students on the Fort Hayes campus. To be run by PrimaryOne Health, eyewear provider Luxottica and Ohio State University’s College of Optometry, the clinic could serve up to 40 students a day.

The nonprofit PrimaryOne Health, formerly called Columbus Neighborhood Health Center, historically has provided clinics in medically underserved areas of Franklin and Pickaway counties. The agency offered to put $675,000 toward the Fort Hayes center, which is still in the planning phase, Varner said.

bbush@dispatch.com

@ReporterBush

PrimaryOne Health & the Community Coalition Team Up for 2016 Open Enrollment

Ohio Healthcare Premiums Continue to Decrease

The 2016 open enrollment on health insurance period kicked off Oct. 28 with some optimistic news and a meeting of some of the most prolific local elected officials.

The United States Health and Human Services Region V Director Kathleen Falk met with PrimaryOne Health CEO Charleta B. Tavares and other community partners to shed light on this past year’s successes.

According to Falk, Ohio was one of only a few states to see a decrease in healthcare premiums during 2015. She also noted that Ohio’s uninsured rate dropped from 17.3% in 2012 to 8.7%, a large win for community health partners.

“The Affordable Care Act has had a huge impact on people’s lives and Ohio’s economy, with $4.6 billion in federal funds being returned to Ohio for services provided to people enrolled in Expanded Medicaid between January 2014 and September 2015,” said Falk. Continue reading

50, 40 & 18 Years of Community Health Centers

PrimaryOne Health Celebrates Three (3) Monumental Health Center Anniversaries, Including Its Own 18-Year Commemoration

The PrimaryOne Health team  met with area patients and other healthcare providers Nov. 12, 2015 at the Hilton Downtown Hotel to honor 50 years of health centers in the United States.

At the event, a variety of speakers spent time highlighting and reflecting on a multitude of healthcare accomplishments that have been achieved throughout the past half century. Members of PrimaryOne commemorated 40 years of health centers in Columbus and its very own milestone: 18 years of public healthcare services in Central Ohio.

Originally developed out of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, community health centers, now known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), currently have 45 locations or Look-A- Like facilities in 65 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Continue reading