WellSpan has a long history of supporting more than 30 health centers that care for vulnerable or medically underserved patients, including those who don’t have health insurance, are underinsured, have limited resources, and those experiencing poverty, in communities across South Central Pennsylvania.
The centers, called federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), provide a full range of primary and preventive care, including medical, dental, and mental health/substance misuse services to patients, as well as specialized services such as speech and language therapy, nutrition services, urgent care, crisis intervention services, optometry, family planning, members of the Plain community, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The FQHCs have been nimble partners during the pandemic, collaborating with WellSpan to offer COVID-19 vaccines and tests to underserved and hard-to-reach neighborhoods and migrant workers, as well as educate patients about how to stay safe.
“These centers offer vital care to many of our neighbors,” says Ann Kunkel, WellSpan vice president of community health and engagement. “The depth and scope of their services is oriented in uniquely treating the whole person from identifying and managing social determinants of health, prenatal care, immunizations, managing chronic conditions, and integrating behavioral health into primary care. Their teams help to build healthy communities across our region.”
Here are just three examples of the creative and proactive work being done by WellSpan’s partner FQHCs: Family First Health, which operates centers in York, Adams, Lebanon, and Lancaster counties; Keystone Health, which operates centers in Franklin, Adams, and Fulton counties; and Union Community Care, which operates centers in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
Those three partners serve more than 124,000 patients a year in South Central Pennsylvania.
Reading, writing, and…checkups
Family First Health opened a health center in Hannah Penn School in York in 1997 – it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year – in partnership with WellSpan Health, the City of York, and the School District of the City of York. It’s the only school-based health center in all of York County, and offers pediatric and adult care, immunizations, behavioral health services, and other care. Spanish interpreters are on staff and patients have 24-hour access to an on-call physician for emergency needs.
The health center provides care to about 30 percent of the almost 700 students at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. If a child gets sick during the school day, a school nurse can refer them to the health center for care. A mobile dentistry program also provides dental care to the students.
“We have community health workers, and we have a specific school-based health manager, to act as a liaison between the school and the center,” says CarrieAnn Frolio, Family First vice president of strategic initiatives. “Additionally, we recently added a health and wellness coach, to provide more support to the patients and students in the school.”
School-based health centers have been shown to have success in treating pediatric conditions such as asthma, obesity, and special health care needs. They also have been associated with improved academic outcomes, attendance, and reduced rates of suspension.
The Hannah Penn Center also provides medical, dental, and behavioral health services to people who live in the surrounding community, caring for about 1,200 patients. The team also works closely with patients to connect then to onsite optometry services at Family First Health’s George Street location, prioritizing students to connect them with care.
As a partner with a collaborative program called Connections, Family First Health also supports efforts such as a monthly hygiene kit distribution, where families can pick up free soap, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products, and other items. Family First Health is a backbone for Connections, in partnership with the Community Progress Council/Community of Hope, the City of York, and the School District of the City of York.
Specialized infectious disease care
Keystone Health has collaborated with WellSpan in several initiatives over the past years. In 2012, Keystone began providing specialized infectious disease and HIV care to residents in Franklin County, after the organization saw a need to care for patients who were traveling at least an hour for some of these specialized services.
“Some of this care was available but not accessible to people,” said Joanne Cochran, Keystone president and CEO. “We try to remove all barriers.”
The Keystone Infectious Diseases practice sees about 400 patients both in outpatient and inpatient settings at WellSpan Chambersburg and WellSpan Waynesboro hospitals, also providing telehealth services. The three providers offer the only source of specialized HIV care available within 100 miles of the Chambersburg office. The practice also offers a sexually transmitted disease and HIV testing and treatment program to more than 1,000 patients a year and serves as the official site for monkeypox vaccinations in Franklin County.
The infectious disease practice cares for COVID-19 patients and has been on the front lines of pandemic at both WellSpan Chambersburg and WellSpan Waynesboro hospitals, caring for critically ill patients, offering convalescent plasma treatment, and advising area nursing homes and schools on pandemic protocols.
Smiles of Joy for children
Union Community Care has been offering dental services for more than 50 years, annually offering the service to about 7,400 patients, from infants to adults. The dental team includes almost 50 people, including dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and patient access specialists.
Its specialized dental program, Smiles of Joy, offers dental care that is integrated into the medical care and checkups of children ages 5 and younger. When a child in this age group – or even their parent – comes into a Union Community Care health center for a visit, the child also may see a dental hygienist. The hygienist will do a screening, cleaning, and fluoride treatment, to make it convenient and engaging for families to get one-stop care.
The hygienist, who rotates to different locations throughout the week, provided care to more than 1,300 children last year, making it quick and convenient for them to have healthy teeth. The hygienist also provides education about how to brush and floss, discusses the danger of sugary drinks, and hands out free toothbrushes and dental supplies.
“The beauty of this program is the convenience,” says Nicole Specht, spokeswoman for Union Community Care. “These children may not have been able to come back for care if it wasn’t quick and available at that initial medical appointment.”
This care is particularly important for patients who do not have dental insurance and can qualify for a sliding fee discount program, while also connecting children and families to a dental home.
To learn about other ways WellSpan lives its vision to be a trusted partner to our community, go here.