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Published on November 12, 2019

“It’s easy to do the right thing”

Community Benefits Involvement

“It’s easy to do the right thing,” Cape Cod Healthcare President and CEO Michael Lauf told a group gathered at Outer Cape Health Services in Wellfleet on Friday. “Helping people is easy, and we want to err on the side of doing just that.”

Lauf was in town Friday as part of a Lower and Outer Cape tour of sites and programs that are supported with Cape Cod Healthcare Community Benefits grants. In addition to Wellfleet, he and a small CCHC group that included Paul Niedzwiecki, Vice President of Strategy and Government Affairs, and Kathleen Bailey, Director of Community Benefits, also stopped at MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown, the Chatham Fish Pier, the Family Pantry and the Ellen Jones Community Dental Health Center at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.

The tour was an effort to meet the local residents involved in the various programs, and a chance for Lauf to hear about local concerns directly from the staff at each program.

CCHC continually reviews the needs of the community by conducting an extensive annual stakeholder survey that results in the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The CHNA informs CCHC Community Benefits grants, with a special emphasis on the unmet needs of the financially disadvantaged and underserved populations.

Personally visiting some of the programs and sites supported by the community benefits program gave Lauf a chance to “demonstrate as an organization that we have changed our culture. We are partnering with our community and taking our role as a community safety net seriously.” 

Provincetown – Transportation Access

Lauf and his team started the day at MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown to highlight a new partnership CCHC has with Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) and Peter Pan Bus Lines to improve access to healthcare for Outer Cape residents. Peter Pan Bus Lines will leverage existing Massachusetts Department of Transportation-funded express bus service to run a bus twice a day from Provincetown to Hyannis – stopping along the way at key health services.

The route starts in Provincetown and stops at various places along the way until it reaches the Hyannis Transportation Center. Riders can then transfer to CCRTA routes to reach CCHC locations, including Cape Cod Hospital.Provincetown Wharf

As part of the enhanced service, the Peter Pan Bus Lines bus will make additional stops along the route at the OCHS clinic in Wellfleet and Fontaine Outpatient Center in Harwich.

Along with Lauf at the wharf gathering were CCRTA Administrator Tom Cahir and Peter Pan Bus Lines Vice President of Operations Frank Doherty.

The partnership is an unusual public-private sector collaboration, said Doherty, who added that Peter Pan had nothing like it throughout its range that extends from Virginia into New England.

“When we were approached, it was a no brainer,” he said. “We’re hoping this will continue on the Cape and in the rest of the state.”

A small group of residents gathered around the bus parked at MacMillan Wharf broke out in applause when Lauf announced the creation of a bus voucher program, supported by CCHC Community Benefits, that can be used by residents who need them. More details will be forthcoming in early 2020.

Wellfleet – Outer Cape Health Services

The Wellfleet Outer Cape Health Services (OCHS) clinic, which reopened in June after a complete renovation, is one of three locations, along with Provincetown and Harwich Port. It is designated as a “federally qualified health center” with a mission to provide access to a range of healthcare and social services to those in need.OCHS Wellfleet

Cape Cod Healthcare grants help support OCHS efforts to bring much-needed behavioral health services to the Lower and Outer Cape through a community navigator program. This program sees trained navigators connecting people in the community with behavioral health and substance use issues with behavioral health services at Cape Cod Hospital.

Also on tap in the near future is collaboration between CCHC and OCHS on an expansion of women’s health services. Having recruited a fifth OB/GYN at Cape Cod Hospital, CCHC is ready to bring these much-needed services into the community to places of high need, like the Outer and Lower Cape, Lauf said. Office visits are anticipated to start in Wellfleet after the first of the year, he added.

“To meet the needs of this diverse community, we need to partner with others,” Lauf told the group of about 15 people at the clinic. He praised OCHS CEO Patricia Nadle, RN, Med, calling her “a visionary who sees around the corner.”

Nadle said Lauf’s visit to the Wellfleet clinic was a significant show of support and gave clinicians and others there a boost.

“To actually have him come out and see people was wonderful,” she said.

Nadle added that his visit also shows that the two healthcare entities are “breaking down some of the old urban legends (about conflicts between CCHC and OCHS).”

Chatham – Fish for Families Program

Funded by the CCHC Community Benefits program, Fish for Families is a collaboration between the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance and the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. The program pays fishermen to provide fresh, local fish to six food pantries so families in need can have access to nutritional, protein-rich food.

Lauf met with three local fishermen aboard a fishing boat at the Chatham Fish Pier to hear directly how the program not only helps feed local families, but also supports the needs of fishermen in the off-season. Also onboard was Christine Menard, executive director of The Family Pantry.

Fisherman Nick Muto told Lauf the fishermen are providing the program with a variety of fish, such as scup, mackerel, scallops, monkfish, and dogfish. When families pick up the fish at one of the food pantries, they receive recipes for how to cook them, Menard said.

Lauf told Muto and a handful of others on the boat that a program that helps feed those in need was particularly meaningful to him.

“My mom raised four kids by herself, and it certainly wasn’t easy, so I understand the importance of this program to kids and their families,” he said.

Harwich – Ellen Jones Community Dental Center

Last stop on the tour was at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich, home to the Ellen Jones Community Dental Center. The center, which is operated by Harbor Health and provides low-cost dental care to residents, has been at the school since its inception more than 20 years ago.Ellen Jones Dental

Having outgrown the space, the center will move to a larger facility at Patriot Square in South Dennis next spring. CCHC Community Benefits is facilitating the move with a $100,000 donation.

“These services are so necessary and so vital to this community,” Lauf told a group of about 10 people at the clinic, as patients, dentists and technicians moved around the cramped clinic.  “That’s why we wanted to help with the move.”

Harbor Health President and CEO Chuck Jones thanked Lauf for his support of the program.

“Your contribution was not only the most helpful, but we’re using it as leverage for other donations,” he said.

The Ellen Jones center sees about 3,300 patients a year, servicing 11,000 overall visits. Cape Cod Tech dental hygiene students will continue to learn and work at the center when it moves to South Dennis, said Annie Dolan-Niles, technical studies director at the school.