$22 million in healthcare, one resident at a time
Every year, Cape Cod Healthcare invests $22 million in community health initiatives across Cape Cod—from prenatal care to substance abuse prevention to elder care.
But do enough Cape Codders know about these programs—especially those who could benefit from them the most?
“We constantly look at what barriers exist for our residents,” said Lisa Guyon, director of Cape Cod Healthcare’s Community Benefits office. “Can they afford care? Are they not insured? Are they underinsured? Are there language barriers? Do they know what services are available?”
”By reaching people early at the grassroots, we can keep many—from infants to seniors—out of the hospital.”
Community benefits include direct grants to scores of organizations and nonprofits, charity care, community outreach by Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals, health education programs, workforce development initiatives, volunteerism and regional health and human service partnerships.
The recipients cover a wide spectrum: four local community health centers, the Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative with the Cape Cod National Seashore, Medicare enrollment services, and summer and winter league basketball programs for at-risk adolescents.
Other funds help to start pilot programs across the Cape, including one that integrates substance abuse counselors with obstetricians and gynecologists to address drug use among expectant mothers. A chronic disease management program at local food pantries helps Cape Codders prevent and control high blood pressure and diabetes.
Because it is non-profit and community-based, Cape Cod Healthcare’s two hospitals are required to accept all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, Guyon said. Even so, the best physicians and state-of-the-art technology won’t help residents who aren’t aware of the programs or can’t easily access the hospitals or outpatient clinics.
Guyon administers the $22 million in grants from a small office on the Cape Cod Hospital campus. She investigates worthy charities and organizations, collaborates with government agencies and communicates with Cape Cod Healthcare executives and physicians. She also organizes forums, works with community groups and monitors the grants and their impact on the region’s health.
Every three years, Guyon prepares a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment report and plan . “We look very broadly at health indicators – from childhood asthma to mortality rates for every disease you can image – all across Barnstable County,” she said.
In addition to the challenge of accessing health care, Guyon’s office has identified three other issues with the most impact on Cape Codders:
- Chronic and infectious diseases, particularly cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and tick-borne diseases.
- Mental health, including depression, anxiety and suicide.
- Substance abuse disorders, ranging from addiction to prescription medications to alcoholism among the elderly.
The most-recent Health Needs Assessment, which is required by the federal Affordable Care Act, identified two populations on the Cape that are most vulnerable:
- Residents 65 and older who are isolated. “We find many people who retire here and eventually get ill, but they do not have local family. Often, both spouses get sick and cannot support each other, nor can they locate sufficient caregiver services,” Guyon said.
- Resident between 15 and 24. This population experiences more than double the rate of motor vehicle accidents on Cape Cod than the statewide average. It also suffers high rates of Hepatitis C, and admissions to treatment for substance-abuse disorders.
That’s why building bridges with the community is so important, Guyon said.
The engagement includes partnerships with the Barnstable County Health and Human Services Advisory Council; the Behavioral Health Provider Coalition of Cape Cod & the Islands; and the Barnstable County Regional Substance Abuse Council.
“We’re all in it together,” she said.