The NACHC Policy and Issues Forum is off to an exciting and eventful start. On the eve of the national conference, NACHC issued a new report, Staffing The Safety Net: Building the Primary Care Workforce at America’s Health Centers.” The report reveals almost all Community Health Centers (95 percent) are currently experiencing at least one clinical vacancy, and more than two-thirds (69 percent) are recruiting for at least one family physician.
“There is not really one silver bullet to address all of these issues,” said Jana Eubank, NACHC, Associate Vice President for Research and Policy, in an interview with HealthLeaders Media. “In terms of community-based training, one thing we are going to be pushing in Congress is to continue to support the Teaching Health Center program that provides seed money and support for community based training and Community Health Centers. We are also supporting additional residency dollars for nurse practitioner training programs. There are some programs in the books that could be funded more robustly to help training opportunities at the community level.”
The findings of the report were also noted in a Capitol Hill briefing with a panel of speakers from Community Health Centers that are leaders in innovation. Kerry Hydash CEO, Family Healthcare Network Visalia, CA, described the incentives at her large central California health center to recruit and retain staff. Family Healthcare not only recruits from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), but the health center also works hard to ensure their workforce is fully integrated into the community.
“We provide socials for our staff, we have a basketball league and picnics… We also started a grandparent relocation program so the staff can live closer to their families, ” said Hydash.
Vincent A. Keane, President and CEO of Unity Health Care Inc. (Unity), in Washington, D.C., noted, “What Community Health Centers are doing is not just innovation but continuing to grow from our roots in terms of training the primary care workforce of tomorrow.”
Keane also described how Unity operates a Medical Training and Residency Community Campus to provide medical school training for osteopathic physicians who will work predominantly in primary care settings. The campus is the result of a national and local partnership, where medical students are placed into Unity’s network of health centers after completing their first year of medical school in Arizona and then will complete years two through four of their medical education at the Unity community campus.
Manny Lopes CEO, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) Boston, MA, also described his health center’s innovative work in establishing a clinical strategy to integrate behavioral health into primary care,”We are connecting the mind back with the body,” he said, and described to attendees how clinical teams work with individual patients to develop care plans that address whole health. EBNHC is among the 271 health centers awarded a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to address the national epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse [see HHS press release].
After the briefing, the national conference kicked off at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, with thousands of health center advocates preparing to descend on Capitol Hill and press their case for strong investment in strengthening primary care, workforce building, and to network with each other about how to continue to lead innovation. The conference will continue through the week and we will keep you posted on developments as they happen.
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