Even as a physician’s ability to assist a patient is dependent upon the patient’s participation, so it is with health centers and the communities they serve. For some reason, this seemingly simple ideal is consistently not a part of either health centers’ planning of services or a communities’ thinking regarding quality of health.
A significant part of Alliance Institute’s work across the Gulf South is currently aimed at increasing the overall participation of Gulf Coast communities in the development of services for improving access to health care, improving the overall quality of community health, and changing current health center/community relations to better reflect a true partnership between physician/health center and patient/community.
LANGUAGE & LITERACY ACCESS
Alliance Institute’s work along the Gulf Coast has revealed a rather startling fact. In addition to English, there are at least 5 other languages that are spoken as the primary for various communities: French, Vietnamese, Laotian, Spanish and Cambodian. And that doesn’t even touch upon the various Native American languages and dialects.
Even more startling is that the health centers charged with providing services to these communities very often fail to make the necessary accommodations to adequately serve the non-English speakers that will be coming through their doors.
In our work to increase access to health care across the region, Alliance Institute and its partners have made sure that the issue of language access is addressed in health center negotiations for future funding. In addition, Alliance Institute is working with non-profit organizations within English as Second Language communities to establish themselves as providers for translation services, creating job opportunities within the communities to be served.
PRESERVING HEALTH CARE FUNDING
Over the past few years, Alliance Institute has come to work with communities across 17 counties and parishes in four states (LA, MS, AL, FL) that are currently served by close to 60 health centers. And while that number may seem high, closer inspection reveals that on average there are only about 3.5 health centers per county or parish. It’s no wonder residents have complained about having to take a whole work day to see a doctor because of travel time or wait times of up to three months. Alliance Institute is working with others to increase access to health care via community health centers, primarily Federally Qualified Health Centers.
But all of this work, in addition to what existed previously, is in very real danger of collapse. Under current law, the Health Center Trust Fund is slated to expire by FY2016, leaving only discretionary funding to cover the program’s operations. Even assuming no further reductions (including no further sequestration cuts), current law would lead to a 70% funding reduction for all existing Health Centers. This reduction would be catastrophic for centers, forcing them to close sites, lay off staff, and reduce services at the very time their primary care capacity is needed most. (http://www.nachc.com/client/PIBrief14.pdf)”
The time to act is now! Download the template letter to your federally elected officials. To wait until 2016 to act is not only to wait until the last possible moment, but to allow the partisanship of the 2016 Presidential election cycle to distract from the very serious threat of massive health center closures. Act now!
REGIONAL HEALTH CARE SYMPOSIUMS
Health care providers and community based organizations from across the Gulf Coast came together in New Orleans on November 15, 2013 to participate in Alliance Institute’s Affordable Care Act and Access to Health Care Along the Gulf Coast: A Symposium.
Alliance Institute firmly believes that just as we are affected regionally by threats to our well being – whether natural or man-made – we are best served in our recovery efforts by coming together. National presenters from Health and Human Services, Enroll America, Health Outreach Partners, Johnston Associates, and RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights provided critical information for participants during the morning and afternoon sessions which included state-specific breakout workshops to increase collaboration among community organizations and health providers.
Stay tuned for more Alliance Institute symposiums centered on expanding access to health care along the Gulf Coast!
GULF REGION HEALTH OUTREACH PROGRAM
The Gulf Region Health Outreach Program (GRHOP) is a five-year program to strengthen the health care, health literacy, and resiliency of Gulf Coast communities. Find out more here.