This article was published in our Spring 2016 Update.
Gifford was one of four Vermont health centers to receive Affordable Care Act funding in March for programs that will help address an escalating national heroin epidemic. The Department of Health and Human Services award will be used to expand substance abuse services, especially those for people addicted to opioids.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Johns said Gifford is collaborating with the Clara Martin Center to support a SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment) model of care. The award will primarily fund additional staff for the program (a primary care provider with training in substance abuse treatment, a
social worker, and supporting staff).
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to expand services for alcohol and drug dependence and misuse in our community,” said Johns. “These funds will allow us to increase patient access and to collaborate with other community organizations to provide seamless, all-encompassing treatment for those seeking help.”
Nationwide $94 million in Affordable Care Act funding was awarded to 271 health centers in 45 states. The other three organizations in Vermont that received funding were the Community Health Centers of Burlington, Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region, and Northern Counties Health Care in St. Johnsbury.
This article was published in our Fall 2015 Update.
With the unique ongoing relationship primary care providers establish with patients and families, they may be among the first to recognize that someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse.
This year Gifford expanded the Behavioral Health team (it now includes a psychiatrist, a master’s level psychotherapist, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner) to help primary care providers identify ongoing issues and help patients get the support and care they need.
“There are people in our community who are struggling with sadness, depression, are grieving a loss, or are overwhelmed by money issues. We want them to know that they can get help,” said Gifford’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Johns.
He notes that the new Behavioral Health team will complement the work of the Clara Martin Center, which handles more long term psychotherapy needs, and offers a depth of expertise that is unusual in a small rural hospital.
“Having behavioral health expertise onsite to assist in the emergency room if needed, or to consult on inpatient and outpatient care, will allow our primary care provider to help more patients manage mental illness issues,” he said.
Behavioral Health Director Dr. Peter Thomashow says his team looks closely at how biological, psychological, and social factors influence health. They offer individual, couples, and family psychotherapy and education and also collaborate with primary care providers to help them manage depression in patients.
“We are especially interested in helping individuals having difficulty coping with chronic medical illness,” said Thomashow. “Behavioral health needs to be integrated into a primary care plan, especially when treating chronic illness.”
The Behavioral Health clinic services include comprehensive evaluation and treatment for a wide range of psychiatric disorders for adults (age 18 and older) including:
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
As many community hospitals find themselves contracting—or even closing—because of external pressures, Gifford is developing models that will expand services to respond to community needs.
“FQHC resources allow us to expand existing medical services and to create new paths to help patients with behavioral health and dental issues,” says Dr. Martin Johns, medical director of the hospital and medicine divisions. “These areas can impact a patient’s general health, and need to be part of standard primary care.”
Integrating behavioral and dental health into primary care
A special behavioral care team (a psychiatrist, psychologists, social workers, and care managers) has been created to help link access to behavioral health services to primary care. This group will work directly in concert with primary care providers in their offices, so services can be seamlessly added to a patient’s care plan as needed. The new enhanced behavioral health services model will be offered at Gifford’s Randolph campus early in 2015, and will then expand to the community clinics.
Gifford has established relationships with local dentists so that people coming to primary care providers with unmet dental conditions can receive care. This program will hopefully expand to include additional dental providers and other FQHC and federal programs services.
Rising to the challenge of increased substance abuse
Medical centers across the country are struggling to meet the needs of people with alcohol and substance dependency problems. FQHC funding is allowing Gifford to expand existing Vermont Blueprint for Health services so providers can better address the special needs of those who are opiate dependent and want to avoid substance abuse.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
The first baby of the year is born to Casandra Perry of Bethel. Baby Bryden is welcomed on Jan. 2 at 3:48 a.m.
A “Matters of the Heart” series is offered monthly all year long for heart patients, or anyone looking to improve his or her heart health. Also offered: Chronic Conditions Support Group, Caregiver Support Group, Diabetes Group Education Classes, childbirth classes, and a new Mood Disorder Support Group.
A “Quit In Person” tobacco cessation class helps those addicted to smoking or other tobacco products to quit.
A “Chronic Pain Healthier Living Workshop” is offered at the Randolph House. The six-week free series addresses coping with chronic pain.
Experienced nurse leader Alison White joins Gifford as vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, Ob/Gyn and Midwifery, the Emergency Department, Menig nursing home, and Adult Day Program.
After considerable input from providers, staff, and clergy, the Gifford board passes a policy implementing the Patient Choice at End of Life law. The policy allows willing primary care providers to prescribe lethal prescriptions but prohibits use of such prescriptions in the hospital setting.
An educational event shares Gifford’s “Vision for the Future” with Corporators. The vision focuses in part on constructing a senior living community in Randolph
The Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary awards $19,000 to various Gifford departments, including equipment for inpatient units, pulse oximeters for primary care offices, play equipment and furniture for The Robin’s Nest Child Enrichment Center, and a handheld scanning device for Materials Management.
Experienced hospitalist Dr. Robert Cochrane joins Gifford’s hospitalist (inpatient care) team.
An “Infant and Child CPR” class helps new parents and families learn lifesaving techniques.
A “Home Alone and Safe” course teaches children 8-11 how to respond to home alone situations.
A “Babysitter’s Training Course” is held for area pre-teens and teens seeking greater expertise in safe child care.
Chiropractor Dr. Michael Chamberland joins the Sharon Health Center sports medicine team.
A “Healthier Living Workshop” series begins, providing the chronically ill free information on improving their health.
A second “Quit In Person” tobacco cessation class is held, this time at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.
Gifford’s Health Connections office and Blueprint for Health team partner with Bi-State Primary Care to offer free help signing up for Vermont Health Connect. Help is available each weekday, but on March 6 and March 13 extra “navigators” come to Gifford to help even more people sign-up in advance of a March 15 deadline.
Gifford’s annual Diabetes Education Expo is merged with a Health Fair for all chronically ill and offered on March 14.
Gifford holds its 108th Annual Meeting of its corporators, announcing achievements of 2013, unveiling a new video about Gifford, and hearing a special presentation from Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille. Corporators elected Matt Considine of Randolph to the board and re-elect Lincoln Clark of Royalton. Grants were announced, including $25,000 in William and Mary Markle Community Foundation funds to 10 area towns’ schools to support exercise and healthy eating programs. The Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award, in memory of Gifford’s late president, is awarded to the Orange County Parent Child Center.
Gifford staff raise $520 for the March of Dimes by wearing “Blue Jeans for Babies”.
Gifford’s mammography and nuclear medicine departments earn three-year, national re-accreditations from the American College of Radiology.
Certified nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner April Vanderveer joins Gifford’s 24-hour midwifery team.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
Medical Staff President Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara
As president of the Medical Staff I have witnessed firsthand the hard work and dedication not only of our medical team, but of all those behind the scenes who make Gifford a place where patients are a priority.
With economic and healthcare issues front and center in our daily news, it’s reassuring to work for an organization that is fiscally stable without sacrificing quality of care. I know I speak for the entire health care team when I say how fortunate we are to have our new FQHC designation, which will allow us to provide much needed dental and mental health services to our community.
Gifford continues to lead the way in its vision for the future of providing quality care for our community. At the forefront of that vision is the creation of a new Senior Living Community, where our seniors can be cared for in a home-like setting.
As part of this process we are fortunate to be able to “rejuvenate” our existing space into private, more comfortable rooms that will allow us to improve the efficiency and quality of the care we offer our patients.
It has been an exciting year of planning and creating new ways to provide access to the high-quality care we offer through all stages of life—from newborn through to nursing home resident.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
Family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow shares a laugh with Mary Williams of Randolph Center during a recent visit.
A family unable to afford dental care. An uninsured mother-to-be. A loved one suffering from depression. These are some of the people who will be helped by Gifford’s new status as a Federally Qualified Health Center.
The memo to staff was dated November 7, 2013, and sprinkled with exclamation points. It came from administrator Joseph Woodin and was entitled “A Must Read!” The message: Gifford had just been named a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC)—an event that Woodin characterized as “some of the biggest news I have ever shared with staff since working at Gifford!”
Christina Harlow consults with family medicine physician Dr. Marcus Coxon.
The FQHC designation is a coveted one, opening the gate to a stream of federal dollars for primary care. The funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the primary federal agency for improving access to health-care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. Of particular interest to Gifford: support for dental care and mental health services for Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
“This assistance from the federal government allows us to develop programs for dentistry, psychiatry, and mental health that are hugely important for the community,” says Medical Director of the Hospital and Medicine Divisions Dr. Martin Johns. “It also allows us to place a bigger focus on primary care. It means we can take better care of our Medicaid patients, offering them services that we couldn’t before because of finances, and that’s huge.
“We’re finding out almost weekly that we can offer things to patients that we didn’t even know about, let alone have the capacity to apply for. The designation was designed to help small groups of physicians serving in rural communities. Our mission has always been that.” To qualify for FQHC status, a community health center must be open to all, regardless of ability to pay. It must offer a sliding fee scale with discounts based on patient family size and income in accordance with federal poverty guidelines. The federal money is intended to offset these obligations.
Over the past year, Gifford has laid the groundwork necessary to begin drawing on those funds. Among the steps: conducting a search for a psychiatrist to join the medical staff, working out agreements with area dentists to provide care to Medicaid patients, and completing a transition to electronic medical records.
“HRSA is really concerned that they make these health centers as feasible as possible,” says VP of Finance Jeff Hebert, “so there’s a lot of grant opportunity that impacts our financial stability. We get support every year as long as we keep up with the requirements.
“Probably the biggest benefit is that we get bigger reimbursement for our Medicaid patients. Reimbursement is cost-based, and not fee-based, so instead of paying a percentage of the fee for x, y, and z, the government looks at how much it costs to provide those services. It’s a better reimbursement methodology for Medicaid.” Other perks of the designation are: insurance coverage for primary care physicians and relief from staggering medical-school debt, a powerful recruitment incentive.
IF IT WALKS LIKE A DUCK
The new FQHC designation allows primary care physicians like Dr. Marcus Coxon (left) to offer Gifford patients increased access to mental and dental health services.
The Gifford model is an unusual one: a community health center with satellite clinics and a small hospital at its hub. As such, it provides both primary and critical care to a rural population. It would thus seem eligible for both FQHC funding and the benefits it receives as a Critical Access Hospital, a designation conferred in 2001. But would the feds see it that way?
The FQHC “duck test” was a laborious application process that involved many hospital departments and years of preparation, followed by months of waiting. With acceptance, Gifford the health center became the “parent” of Gifford the hospital—one of only three FQHC/CAHs in the country.
“Our primary-care services—which include internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, and ob-gyn—are all part of that community health center parent,” explains Woodin.
“The concurrent designation is tremendous for us,” says Johns. “It enables us to provide the most possible benefit to the community while being a small hospital, and it protects us from a lot of the changes going around the state and the region with regard to accountable care: As an FQHC, we cannot be purchased by or absorbed by a larger organization.”
“I look at health-care reform as being primary-care focused,” says Hebert. “It’s that primary-care provider who keeps you healthy and works with you to make sure you as a patient are getting what you need. If you’re prompting that patient to come in for a physical, and to develop healthy behaviors, you’re going to keep that patient a lot healthier at a manageable level than a model that doesn’t focus on primary care. I use myself as an example of what not to do: I only go to a health-care provider when I get to the point when I’m ready to go into the hospital and that’s an extremely expensive proposition. It’s not as efficient, and you as a patient aren’t as satisfied because you’re looking at a long recovery time. By making Gifford Health Care the parent of our organization, we’ve set ourselves up for the future, and I feel we’re in a really good place.”
After eight months of administrative work, Gifford was ready to start drawing on its new funds. The first bill went out in July. “It’s probably going to take most of 2015 to really understand all the levers and dynamics,” says Woodin.
“My thanks and appreciation go out to the staff behind the scenes who made this happen. It was a huge amount of work, and yet strategically, it positions us well, given health-care reform both in the state of Vermont and nationally. It helps us to have the right focus again around primary care, taking care of Medicaid and the uninsured, and looking to build from there.”
A nurse practitioner with advanced degrees and diverse experience has joined Gifford Health Care’s family practice in Randolph.
Family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Colorado Mesa University, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson and a doctor of nursing practice degree from the same institution.
She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a member of the American Nurses Association, and has experience in emergency medicine, psychiatrics and more.
A native of Wisconsin, Harlow’s first career was as a mountain bike guide and a river guide in Utah and West Virginia. During that time, however, Harlow lost a brother to mental illness. Looking to her future, she knew she needed a more stable career. The loss of her brother struck an interest in better understanding depression and anxiety.
She went to nursing school and worked internationally as a volunteer in Honduras and Northern India and in the United States as a psychiatric registered nurse, then in specialty and inpatient care and finally in an emergency room. “I wanted to be more well-rounded, because psych is everywhere,” she says of her diverse experience.
She went on to nurse practitioner school and then took the extra step to earn her doctorate in the field.
She worked as an emergency department nurse practitioner in Colorado and as an adjunct professor at Adam’s State University, before deciding to move to Vermont with her family.
Her husband, Dr. Nathaniel Harlow, grew up in Vermont and wanted to be closer to family here.
The couple both joined Gifford – him as a sports medicine provider at the Sharon Health Center and her as a family medicine nurse practitioner in Randolph, where she is looking forward to getting to know her patients and providing well-rounded care.
“I wanted more than just a passing relationship with my patients,” she notes of her emergency department work. “I am really interested in continuity of care.”
In Harlow, patients will find a highly-educated, compassionate caregiver and open communicator.
“Being a nurse first, I have open communication with my patients. I nurse to my patients,” she says. “I like to focus on health. Your health is your wealth.”
“I also really embrace a holistic perspective,” she says, noting she considers a patient’s emotional and spiritual well-being in addition to more common inquiries about diet and exercise.
Harlow’s specific clinical interests include preventative care, women’s health, holistic care and mental illness. As a family nurse practitioner, she treats all ages as well as both men and women.
In her free time, Harlow – a competitive mountain biker, road cyclist, adventure racer, distance runner and climber – enjoys travel and the outdoors. She and her husband are currently living in Brookfield with their young daughter, Juliana, 1.
Harlow is seeing new patients. Call Gifford’s central scheduling line at 728-2777 to make an appointment with Harlow.
This article was featured in ourSpring 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
The Kingwood Health Center in Randolph underwent an expansion in the fall that both improved the Route 66 health center and freed up needed space at Gifford’s downtown campus.
The addition was completed in November and over the winter several Gifford departments made the move to the impressive, new space. Those departments included:
Occupational and speech therapies, which joined outpatient physical therapy on the ground floor of Kingwood
The move of occupational and speech therapies creates a full-spectrum, multidisciplinary rehabilitation center at Kingwood. Added is some gym space, six new exam rooms and improved staff areas.
“Everyone loves the new building,” notes Megan Sault, the rehabilitation department’s operations coordinator.
Having all rehabilitation services in one, convenient location has reduced confusion among patients as to where they should go for their appointment and allows for a collaborative approach to care.
“It’s really great to be so close to team members and share this beautiful facility,” says speech therapist Kathy Carver, who on the day we visited was meeting with patient Terry White of Randolph Center. Terry, who had a stroke, had also seen physical therapy that day, allowing him to make just one trip to Kingwood, and allowing collaboration on Terry’s care.
For others the new location near Interstate 89 is just convenient.
Occupational therapy patient Michael Dempsey of Brookfield was recovering from a broken arm that had left him with shoulder pain. “It’s nice, got a lot of room and is closer to my house. It’s convenient,” Michael remarked.
On the top floor is new office space for accounting as well as billing, or what the medical center calls patient financial services. This is where patients can go to pay their bills or make billing inquiries.
To find the billing office, park in the upper drive and use the door on the left. There are signs inside.
Gifford first bought the Kingwood building in 2007 as an opportunity to expand services. Initially the flat-roofed, dark structure underwent renovations. The new addition seamlessly expanded the structure toward the wood-line.
Also located at the health center are Gifford’s Blueprint Community Health Team, mental health practitioner Cory Gould, the Diabetes Clinic and a private practice dentist, Dr. John Westbrook – all on the top floor.
Call the health center at 728-7100 and listen for options for reaching the various departments.
Health Connections caseworker Michele Packard remains at the main medical center. Michele provides patients help accessing insurance and free care options. (Go in the main entrance at Gifford’s main campus and look for signs to find Michele.)