The hospital system, which is based in Johnson City, was one of 32 organizations chosen to be a part of the program, called the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s Accountable Health Communities Model. To help fund the program, MSHA received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The ultimate goal of the program is to help Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries by addressing underlying issues which may lead to poor health such as housing instability, food insecurity, utility needs, interpersonal violence and transportation.
“This type of community collaboration is a good first step toward improving the region’s health by addressing social determinants, but it is by no means the totality of what is needed in our region,” said Tony Keck, senior vice president and chief development officer for Mountain States, in the release. “A federal investment of $2.5 million over five years is a good start, but it pales in comparison to the $450 million over 10 years that Mountain States and Wellmont would be able to invest in the region’s health if permitted to merge."
Even without merging, the two hospital systems will work together on this project. MSHA will collaborate with a number of other organizations to implement the program across Southwest Virginia. Those organizations are Frontier Health, Cumberland Mountain Community Services Board, Dickenson Behavioral Health Services, Highlands Community Services Board, Mount Rogers Community Services Board and Planning District One Behavioral Health Services.
MSHA will also partner with the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services. VDMAS administers the Medicaid program in the state and will provide data to help measure the program’s effectiveness.
“We’re excited about the opportunity this program presents for our region, and we believe it has the potential to make a meaningful impact on the health of our community,” said Allison Rogers, vice president of strategic planning for Mountain States and project director for the $2.5 million grant, in a press release. “We hope that by showing success in this groundbreaking demonstration, we can lay a foundation for future investment by CMS in services designed to address the social determinants of health.”
Seven new jobs will be created by the program, along with additional support staff. The new positions, dubbed patient navigators, will be located at community service boards and help coordinate access to needed services like housing, food and mental health services.
To be selected for the program, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who live in Virginia will receive a brief screening. Those who qualify will be randomly selected to receive navigation services. Data will then be evaluated to measure how the patient’s health improves when social needs are met, the release stated.