JCHCC Provides Care for the Indigent and Homeless

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Shondra-Williams-thumbEven as healthcare reform provides more people with health coverage, many patients still face barriers in accessing care. For this reason, community health centers provide a vital service to indigent and homeless populations.

Jefferson Community Health Care Centers (JCHCC) is a system of four clinics in Jefferson Parish, La., that are all certified Patient-Centered Medical Homes, providing care close to home to populations in need.

Dedicated staff from the top down

Finding the right staff and physicians to provide care is one of the biggest challenges faced by community health centers. The patient populations these clinics serve can be complex. Providers are confronted with multiple health conditions, along with psychosocial issues that make it harder for the patients to adhere to treatment plans.

It takes individuals dedicated to the holistic healing of people in need to work at one of JCHCC’s clinics.

Shondra Williams, PhD, is chief executive officer of JCHCC. Most of her career has been spent caring for indigent populations. She trained as a nurse, receiving a master’s and PhD in nursing, which gives her insight into providing care at the bedside.

“As a nurse, I understand the holistic care that’s needed,” she said. “Nurses know how to reach and engage patients, as well as reaching providers in a way they can understand. As CEO, I also hold the responsibility of galvanizing internal and external stakeholders in our mission. Population health is more important now than ever.”

Before coming to JCHCC, Williams was program director for the Department of Health and Hospitals, overseeing 63 clinics across Louisiana. While in that position, she learned to navigate policies and understand the scope of healthcare in the state and what drives outcomes, all of which she applies to promoting the highest quality and compassionate care at JCHCC clinics.

“Our mission is to provide high-quality care to the uninsured, underinsured, and most vulnerable populations in and around Jefferson Parish,” Williams said. “Our providers have a reputation of trust in our communities that is so vital for helping our patients.”

Providing a one-stop shop for those in need

Because many patients in the community struggle to find transportation to multiple appointments, face limits in accessing technology, and deal with other social factors, JCHCC strives to provide one-stop shopping for healthcare needs.

The clinics offer primary care, preventive health, disease management, and specialty services, including pediatrics, dentistry, podiatry, and behavioral health. In addition, patients can find enabling services such as billing Medicaid, assisting with enrolling in marketplace plans, and connecting to social services outside of the clinics.

“Our goal is to increase access to care as much as we can for a community of more than 435,000 residents,” Williams said. “We develop external partnerships to optimize what we do, while controlling costs and sharing services.”

With policy changes, Williams believes that being able to provide multiple services under one roof is vital for vulnerable populations.

“Policy constraints in our state have increased the level of public/private partnerships, but have left a gap in services available to indigent populations,” she said. “We have to analyze how our clients access specialty services under one roof and review the social determinants that create barriers to accessing care. The most essential one is transportation, and all that is improved when you have a comprehensive healthcare delivery system.”

Controlling costs and promoting patient responsibility

Reform and other factors within the healthcare industry require everyone to control costs and limit spending, but it is also encouraging patients to take more responsibility for their health.

Williams said reform and availability of health insurance is reshaping the behavior of the patients they see. She said JCHCC has reached out to more than 1,000 individuals to help them enroll in marketplace plans, and many of them have received subsidies in the first year, some taking their premiums down to less than $1 a month.

“There’s a need for patients to be responsible for their healthcare now,” she said. “They need to have an email address and access to some resources to assist in decision making. Those are things my team had to help them develop.”

To promote that responsibility, JCHCC has also launched a patient portal to help patients understand what’s happening with their healthcare.

Going the extra mile for its patients is integral to JCHCC’s vision, Williams stressed.

However, coordinating care, not only across the JCHCC network, but also across multiple healthcare providers, creates difficulties in controlling costs. JCHCC is a member of the Bayou Health Plan, a statewide initiative to coordinate healthcare by avoiding duplication, reducing costs, and improving quality.

While JCHCC is a data-driven organization with detailed tracking of outcomes, Meaningful-Use compliance, and evidence-based decision making, Williams said it is still challenging to keep up with policy changes related to being compliant with the Bayou Health Plan.

“So many changes occur frequently, and we have to adapt as necessary to continue being reimbursed for the services we provide,” she said.

Keeping community at the core of its mission

JCHCC continues to gain assistance through public programs and partnerships.

Recently, JCHCC was awarded a grant, one of 30 given in Louisiana, by the Health Resources and Service Administration to expand primary care and dental services to low-income families. JCHCC also partners with the medical schools at Louisiana State University and Tulane to train young physicians in a community-based setting.

“What we do is challenging, but we always ensure patients get quality treatment regardless of ability to pay,” Williams said. “Community is the very essence of what we do, and we are dedicated to coordinating the care and meeting the medical and psychosocial needs of our patients.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Crystal C. Goines February 6, 2015 at 8:54 pm

What a blessing you and your staff are to our community Dr. Williams!


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