Patients will notice little difference – the faces will be the same and the quality of care will be as great as ever – but as of February 1, the Ashland Health Center completed the transition announced last year from being a TAMC run facility to one of five Katahdin Valley Health Centers (KVHC) operating as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in rural communities in northern Maine.
The collaborative effort that helped secure a $300,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided for the expansion of healthcare services offered locally to residents in the greater Ashland area. In addition to comprehensive primary health services, oral health and behavioral health services will also be available at the clinic, which is located at 33 Walker Street in Ashland at the Virginia Pinkham Building.
“TAMC will provide specialty services in collaboration with KVHC. The new TAMC service that will open in Ashland in the coming months is Ophthalmology. We have also discussed expanding our occupational medicine to the community,” said Vice President of the TAMC Medical Group Glenda Dwyer, RN, MSB.
The FQHC model offers access to health care in an underserved area or population, regardless of age or ability to pay. Dwyer says working with KVHC to bring this service to the Ashland community comes from a desire of TAMC to collaborate with FQHCs to assist patients in receiving the services they need with the financial assistance that makes it possible.
“We both have the same goal, to serve our patients and retain the great staff that has worked at the Ashland Health Center and now works at the same facility for KVHC,” said Dwyer about working with KVHC during this transition.
TAMC worked closely with KVHC in supporting the grant application. Under the model of care, KVHC will integrate treatment with TAMC, and KVHC’s Ashland providers will have privileges at TAMC’s A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle. KVHC operates four other FQHC’s in Houlton, Island Falls, Millinocket and Patten.
“The collaborative efforts between TAMC and KVHC have been an ongoing function of this transition,” said KVHC Chief Executive Officer Durward L. Humphrey. “We have continued to work extensively with TAMC to ensure a seamless transition for all of the Ashland patients. A KVHC project care team has been assigned to this initiative and has been working diligently in preparation for the transition. They have been tasked with making this transition as seamless as possible for each and every patient in Ashland.”
Community officials and members of the Aroostook Valley Health Center Board of Directors welcome the collaborative effort between KVHC and TAMC to expand both primary and specialty care services to residents of Ashland and surrounding towns. The non-profit AVHC corporation is charged with promoting access to, and ensuring the availability of, healthcare services in the rural and medically underserved communities of Ashland, Garfield Plantation, Masardis, Oxbow Plantation, Nashville Plantation, and Portage, as well as the surrounding areas in western Aroostook County. The corporation owns the Pinkham facility, which houses the Ashland Health Center.
When the Ashland Health Center opens on Monday, February 3, the same familiar faces will greet patients, whose medical records will be fully accessible to KVHC providers to ensure the patients receive the continuity of care that they deserve.
“Our primary goal is have this change be as seamless as possible for our patients in Ashland,” said Humphrey. “Honestly, our goal is to have minimal change out of the gate. The primary changes we want our patients to see are an extension of primary care services and the benefits of being a patient of an FQHC. We are very excited to offer our patient assistance programs. We will have a patient assistance specialist on site and ready to help patients apply for our sliding fee discount, our prescription drug program and our outreach and enrollment activities.”
Humphrey says beyond breaking through the barrier rural areas face regarding access to fundamental healthcare services, he wants the health center in Ashland to be “a place that not only provides expanded healthcare services that is essential to a rural community but a place that nurtures the patient-provider relationship to sustain long term quality care.”
Patients can make appointments by calling the existing Ashland phone number 207-435-6341 or they can call the Katahdin Valley Health Clinic at 1-866-366-5842.
“We are fortunate to have community leaders present and past (Mrs. Virginia Pinkham) that shared the same mission that KVHC and TAMC have. I am honored to work for TAMC and to assist with this transition,” said Dwyer.
TAMC and KVHC already collaborate as part of 19 hospitals and primary care practices across Maine participating in the Beacon Health Network, a subsidiary of EMHS. Beacon Health prioritizes listening to the patient and developing individual care plans, forging strong relationships with caregivers, and implementing leading edge electronic systems that allow two-way communication between patient and provider. The goal of the care model is to be proactive in identifying problems before more serious complications arise to reduce hospital and emergency room utilization rates to keep costs down while providing treatment at the appropriate level of care.
From its inception in 1974, KVHC’s target population has been the poor, uninsured, and underinsured – people who had little, if any, access to healthcare. In the majority of its service area, KVHC is the only healthcare organization that serves this population and that maintains a sliding fee scale.
Funding of KVHC’s $301,458 to establish an FQHC in Ashland was made available under the Affordable Care Act. Nationwide, 236 health center programs will receive approximately $150 million in grant awards to serve more than 1.25 million additional patients.