Preserving Primary Care Capacity in Coram
Expanding Health Care Coverage
March 26, 2012
Successful implementation of Federal health reform will require expanded primary care access for the estimated 1.2 million New Yorkers who will gain health insurance coverage and for the 1.4 million who will likely remain uninsured.
Community health centers—ranging from a storefront free clinic to sophisticated operations running facilities across a multi-county region—are on the front lines of primary care. But many community health centers struggle with low margins, limited funding, and growing demand. When health reform is fully implemented, community health centers are expected to double capacity to serve 3 million New Yorkers.
NYHealth issued a Request for Proposals and awarded 10 grants to help community health centers in four medically underserved regions—Long Island, Western New York, Central New York, and the Finger Lakes—take practical steps to build capacity to better meet the growing need for primary care services.
The Elsie Owens North Brookhaven County Health Center at Coram is a county-owned community health center that serves a low-income population, with 85% of the center’s 8,000 patients covered by Medicaid or uninsured. In the last few years, Suffolk County budget cuts led to reductions in patient visits by almost 30%, at a time of increasing demand. Last year, Suffolk County proposed closing the site. Concerns that closure would create severe access issues for the local population led the State Department of Health to recommend that Hudson River Healthcare (HRHCare) take over operations of the site. With funding from NYHealth, HRHCare took over the Elsie Owens Health Center, bringing with them additional services and resources (including dental and mental health services and electronic health records), expanding the number of patients served, and preserving access to care for the community.