Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 7, 2014

Grants aid local health efforts

Funding to be used to bring better dental, health services to low-income area residents

CUMBERLAND — Two state grants will help with programs to bring better dental and behavioral health services to the area, local health officials said. While the grants themselves are not large, they will play an important role for two Allegany County programs, one a behavioral health program run by the Allegany County Health Department and the other a dental care program at Allegany Health Right.

“The focus of the grant is on improving oral health and dental care,” said Sandi Rowland, executive director at Allegany Health Right. “We’re proud of the state recognition of this program and the grant funding,” Rowland said. The grant of $45,000 is a new one and will be used to help fund the existing dental care program aimed to help low-income people with dental care.

“This proposal will support a program that will target low-income, special needs patients with low health literacy. ... Grant funds would be utilized to support a dental case manager’s time, to pay for discounted dental treatment, and to support collaboration with the Western Maryland Health System emergency department to divert dental patients to discounted urgent dental care services,” according to the terms of the grant.

The $30,000 health department grant is also a new grant “which seeks to expand behavioral health capacity, and specifically safety net capacity, within Allegany County,” said Lesa Diehl, director of the Mental Health System’s Office for the Allegany County Health Department.

The  state’s health care system and state health exchange are creating changes in the way providers do business, Diehl said.

“This project will support those efforts by developing a behavioral health learning collaborative and providing existing behavioral health providers with training/technical assistance opportunities which will facilitate their successful transition to and participation in an integrated behavioral health system under health care reform,” Diehl said.

“The proposal will address workforce challenges in this rural area of the state by supporting a behavioral health learning collaborative that will provide training and technical assistance to providers in the region,” according to the grant summary issued by state officials.

A survey of providers will get a picture of where services currently stand and where things need to go, Diehl said.

“Once we’ve completed the baseline behavioral health inventory, we will invite providers to participate in the collaborative where they will have an opportunity to share information, discuss issues, explore opportunities for collaboration, etc., as well as to work with the Mental Health System’s Office to further refine topics to be included in training and technical assistance opportunities,” Diehl said. The work on the collaborative should start in March.

The funding will help with startup costs of the collaborative, the grant summary said.

The grants were awarded by the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission. Statewide, 20 grant awards totaled $2.85 million. The grants are to “expand access in underserved areas of Maryland, reduce health disparities, and help support innovative community-hospital partnerships that will help reduce hospital emergency department visits, admissions and readmissions. These programs are projected to provide services for an estimated 50,000 Marylanders,” according to a statement by commission officials.

“These grants are going to make a meaningful impact by improving health outcomes and expanding primary care options in our most underserved communities,” commented Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. “The CHRC is an important partner in Maryland’s ongoing effort to address health disparities in order to reduce costs and improve the health of all Marylanders.”

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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