A coalition convened by CHEER and led by the Primary Care Coalition successfully submitted a proposal to the State Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to create a health enterprise zone in Takoma Park and Long Branch (zip codes 20912 and 20903). The proposal documents that Long Branch is a high medical needs area. Although there are two hospitals and two Federally Qualified Health Centers and several community-based clinics serving the area, cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic barriers contribute to persistently poor health outcomes and health disparities among Hispanic, Black, and Asian residents. The Health Resources and Services Administration within the US Department of Health and Human Services has designated parts of these zip codes as a Medically Underserved Area (MUA).
The proposed Long Branch Health Enterprise Zone (LB HEZ) will reduce health disparities and increase access to health care with a primary focus on reducing diabetes. The LBHEZ will also expand the health care workforce, increase community resources for health, reduce unnecessary emergency room use and reduce health care costs.
The LB HEZ strategies for achieving these goals build on and strengthen relationships among health care providers, community organizations, and community members, integrating existing and new activities into a focused program to address and reduce diabetes prevalence in the community. These strategies include the following:
Facilitating healthy lifestyles through community support programs that improve access to healthy food, nutrition education, recreational activities, and fitness programs that are accessible to low-income Long Branch and Takoma Park residents. These strategies include an innovative fruit and vegetable prescription program that provides at risk individuals prescriptions from their primary care provider for fresh fruits and vegetables and reduced fees for local recreational facilities and programs
Facilitating means for the community to improve its physical, social, and economic environment, through community led projects selected through a community improvement process, and by providing tax assistance to 1,000 low income households by increasing their use of the earned income tax credit and other tax credits.
Improving access to appropriate, timely primary health care services by supporting expansion of the health care work force at safety-net clinics, establishing relationships with managed care organizations and their provider networks and incentivizing private providers to accept uninsured patients and/or encourage them to participate in Medicaid.
Enhancing and coordinating patient health education and clinical treatment of diabetic and pre-diabetic patients in order for patients to improve their health literacy, manage their health better, and improve health outcomes.
Increasing the effectiveness of the existing network, and building new networks, of culturally competent and community-connected navigators and outreach workers, through enhanced training, coordination and linkage to primary health care providers, social and support service agencies, and hospital emergency departments.
The HEZ Coalition will establish relationships among agencies and organizations that impact health, reduce fragmentation, and promote a high functioning system of care. This will be accomplished by:
Ensuring that the composition of the HEZ Coordinating Committee is inclusive of community members, community organizations, primary health care providers, hospitals, academic institutions, and the local health department.
Adopting a common framework, goals, and action plan.
Engaging Committee members to participate in work groups related to program planning and implementation.
Establishing accountability among participants by regularly sharing program reports, data analyses, and evaluation findings.
Facilitating communication through regular meetings and updates.
Coalition partners include hospitals (Washington Adventist and Holy Cross), clinics (Mary’s Center, Community Clinic, Inc., Mobile Med and Care for Your Health) other health organizations, (Primary Care Coalition, Center on Health Disparities at Adventist HealthCare), the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, and many community based organizations, such as CHEER, IMPACT Silver Spring, Casa de Maryland, Adventist Community Services, and the Crossroads Community Food Network. The coalition also received the support and participation from numerous local organizations such as the City of Takoma Park, which endorsed this process in a special resolution, Washington Adventist University, Clifton Park Baptist Church, God Glorified Church of God in Christ, and many individual community members. Financial support for the HEZ proposal preparation process was provided by the City of Takoma Park, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, and the Primary Care Coalition.
The proposal was submitted on November 15. A decision on the selection of the Maryland Health Enterprise Zones is expected by late December. If selected and funded, the LB HEZ will begin operation in January 2013.