Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023|
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Imagine having nowhere to sleep tonight.
Every shelter in your neighborhood is full, and you have nowhere else to turn. You’re left on the street, wondering where you’ll get your next meal, your next hot shower or even prescription refill to manage your blood pressure.
Sadly, this is reality for the more than 7,000 homeless individuals living in Hawaii, which has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the United States. Many are living with chronic conditions and mental health issues that need regular attention, but because of a lack of stable housing or access to transportation, they lack access to regular primary and preventive care.
To address these health needs, many of Hawaii’s homeless population depend on community health centers for comprehensive, affordable care. These centers specialize in treating underserved populations such as the homeless, offering integrated services all “under one roof.”
In fact, community health centers serve more than 150,000 Hawaii residents, offering medical, dental and mental health services in one convenient location.
This approach has led to better health outcomes.
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, community health center patients have fewer low birth weight babies and higher rates of diabetes and blood pressure control compared with the national average.
And patients are satisfied.
The Commonwealth Fund found 73 percent of patients using community health centers as their regular source of care thought their care was high quality.
As a result of these efforts, community health centers save an estimated $24 billion per year by reducing unnecessary hospitalizations or emergency room visits. And the results are even more impressive when you examine the Medicaid system — the public health insurance program for low-income Americans.
According to NACHC, community health centers care for 1 in 6 Medicaid members, and here in Hawaii, 56 percent of health center patients have Medicaid. Studies show health center patients with Medicaid have lower use of costly hospital and emergency department-related services compared with patients at other providers, saving the U.S. Medicaid program approximately $6 billion annually.
That’s why ‘Ohana Health Plan, which provides managed care services to nearly 50,000 Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members in Hawaii, is proud to partner with more than 30 community health centers throughout the state that offer primary and behavioral health care services in addition to dental care, diabetes management, prenatal care, tobacco cessation and much more.
This week is designated National Health Center Week — a time to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers.
To support these efforts, we’re collaborating with Bay Clinic to host a Patient Appreciation Day from 7 a.m.-noon Friday at participating locations, including the Hilo Family Health Center, Hilo Family Dental Center, Keaau Family Health and Dental Center, Pahoa Family Health Center and Ka‘u Family Health and Dental Center. Patients also will have a chance to spin a prize wheel.
Additionally, we partnered with West Hawaii Community Health Center to support a “Feel Good Fun Day” and “Movie Night” from 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday at Kealakehe Pavilion, located at 74-5214 Keanalehu Drive in Kailua-Kona.
This event is open to the community and will feature live music, face painting, a bouncy house, Zumba, hula, blood pressure checks and A1C health screenings and a movie.
As we celebrate National Health Center Week, let’s rally together to keep our community health centers at the forefront of health care discussions, so they can remain open and accessible to those Hawaii residents who need them most.
Scott J. Sivik is the state president of ‘Ohana Health Plan.
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