HCC Talks Rural Health

May 26, 2016

After more than a decade and nearly 50 new employees later, it’s safe to say that the Lexington, Mo.-based Health Care Collaborative (HCC) of Rural Missouri is a major player in Lafayette County and in rural health care in this region. The rural health network emerged from an obscure two-person nonprofit organization to the only organization in the nation to have not one but four Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). These Live Well Community Health Centers serve Buckner, Carrollton, Concordia, Waverly and surrounding areas, and provide dental, behavioral health, primary care and social support services. 

Leadership and Economic Impact
When asked to describe the HCC, Executive Director Toniann Richard focuses on four areas: “I think that there are four elements of our organization,” she said. “The nucleus of the organization is really the leadership and board of directors in terms of mission, vision, values and economic impact.”

According to a 2014 Economic Impact study conducted by Capital Link, HCC created 39 jobs, served over 8,200 patients (with only two FQHCs at the time), saving the state of Missouri over $3 million in health care costs – and impacted Lafayette County’s economy to the tune of $4,849,863.

Health Care Delivery
Richard, although pleased with the organization’s accomplishments, doesn’t major on these milestones. Instead, she focuses on how to serve more people and improve delivery of care, while defeating some of the access barriers common to rural communities.

“The second layer of HCC is the economic engine that’s fueled by the FQHCs,” she said. “The Live Well Community Health Centers enable us to expand health care delivery services and outreach coordination so that we are able to serve the sickest of the sick and poorest of the poor.”

Circling the health centers is the third layer which consists of the Network. They are the people who come in and refer into the FQHCs. “They provide wrap-around care and become experts in certain aspects of services,” she said.

Socially-based and Inclusive
Last but not least, Richard explains the fourth layer which is the social element of HCC. She underscores the fact that this social element is inclusive in nature. “I think our model is definitely based on the social needs of the communities we serve so that our social network really allows us to know our community so that we are relevant and responsive to our patient population. We want to make certain that our services are accessible to [everybody].”

Richard said HCC and its Live Well Centers are about developing rural communities. This could be anything from helping with job placement, professional development, providing life skills training to help people move out of poverty, caring for the needs of the homeless as well as many other social support services.

“And then there is certainly the service-delivery side that people may not realize,” she said. “We are here not only to serve those without access to health insurance, but we also take almost every traditional third party commercial insurance as well. We want people to know that we are an open door, nonexclusive organization.” Richard added that one of the things HCC does really well is bring consumers to the table for collaboration. What they learn from the people they serve enables them to continually improve health care delivery. “The best compliment we get is when our consumers refer into our system,” she said. “Personal referrals go further and mean more than any ad dollar we spend.”

Community-driven Programs
HCC’s inclusive nature is evident in the community-based programs they offer. The Connectors Program, which is headed by Network Development Coordinator Suzanne Smith, consists of a network of people who share HCC’s mindset when it comes to collaborating to meet needs. Seed money originally came from the REACH Healthcare Foundation enabling Lafayette County to serve as a pilot site. The individual “connector” is charged with troubleshooting any issue, problem or need a person may have, like food, shelter and clothing among other things. The program now reaches communities throughout West Central Missouri.

“We recently received a call for mortgage assistance,” Richard said. “We were able to connect that person with Legal Aid. When people are dealing with difficult situations, the Connectors group is really committed to problem solving. They thrive off of it.”

Health Insurance
Another program HCC offers is support with navigating the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace. Although their efforts primarily help people enroll in the federal Marketplace, they take it a step further. “We hired someone with significant experience with Medicare, Medicaid and foods stamps (SNAP/EBT),” she said. “The nice thing about this is that our Marketplace Coordinator Iva Eggert not only works with individuals to enroll in these programs, but she often hands them off to a connector who identifies unmet needs and then finds the appropriate resources to provide support.”

Collaboration through Partnership
Richard is among the first to admit that HCC is backed by a strong board and community partners. Service delivery partners include Lafayette County Health Department that offers a cadre of support including WIC and other community-based programs, Pathways Behavioral Health which supports the clinics with direct psychiatric services and Lafayette Regional Health Center. “They are a huge partner,” Richard said. “They gave us the capital we needed to get clinic services started in Concordia and Waverly.” 

Carroll County Memorial Hospital, another partner, is co-locating the Live Well Community Health Center in Carrollton. Richard said this type of collaboration is new and could potentially be the only one in the country, for the time being anyway, where an outside agency collaborates with a critical access hospital to open a community health center. “This is new and again we are without a roadmap, but we are  seeing our way through,” she said. “There is a fluidity in this Carrollton partnership with providers, labs, nurses, etc. So that’s been really good. We partner with two private practice dentists to expand oral health services in the area, McCoy & Samples and John Poston, Jr. DDS, LLC.

“Although these are our premier partners, the unsung heroes are definitely our community partners, Richard said. “They are the ones who pitch in, contribute silently and make certain that our event kickoffs are well-manned and fully equipped. They don’t always get the recognition they deserve, but they are equally as important.” To learn more, connect with the HCC on Facebook, call 1.877.344.3572 or visit HCCNetwork.org.

About the Writer

Tonia Wright

Publisher, Editor-in-Chief

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