Access to care is a gamble right now but for the roughly 168,000 uninsured Mecklenburg County residents this is the norm. Thanks to Charlotte Community Health Clinic patients can continue to be served despite the barriers and fears due to COVID-19.
In fact, the Chief Medical Officer creatively reorganized the staff into different clinical outreach teams: Homeless, Pediatric, Geriatric, Chronic Disease, etc.
“These clinical teams are reaching out to our patients to let them know: we are still here, we can serve you, we can support you,” Jennifer Frey explains. “We are almost back to seeing the same volume of patients, as prior to the pandemic, because of implementing telehealth services. If a patient needs to be seen in our office, we have them come in. For instance, all newborn visits require the mother and child to be seen in our office, so we’ve adjusted our schedule for them to be the first patients seen before anyone else has been in the clinic, therefore, decreasing their chances of exposure.”
CCHC’s clinical staff created drive-thru clinics, offering a convenient way to receive care and decrease community exposure to COVID-19. Patients with chronic conditions can drive through to have their A1C or blood pressure checked and receive the tools needed, like a blood pressure cuff, scale, or diabetic supplies, to do self-checks at home and report their results to the nursing staff; therefore, allowing patients to maintain their care during this health crisis. Recently, a CCHC nurse sent a drive-thru patient to the emergency room because their kidney function was 8% of normal and blood pressure was dangerously high, and he was admitted; the drive-thru clinic saved his life. The drive-thru clinic can serve both these urgent needs and more foundational primary care like the vaccine clinic that ensures children are up to date on their immunizations.
With transportation already an issue for many patients, this clinic is truly a comprehensive medical home, a one-stop place for all health needs. There is mental health, substance use treatments, specialists, primary care providers, and oral health providers all under the same roof. This is particularly helpful for individuals coming out of incarceration with a chronic disease as they are linked to the clinic through a program called Formerly Incarcerated Individuals (FIT). Dr. Evan Ashkin with Lincoln Community Health Center is working to bring this program to other community health centers across North Carolina. A community health worker meets with inmates before their release in order to connect them with a provider and to reduce recidivism due to lack of access to care, and to decrease the risk of hospitalization and death, which is very high in the weeks after release from prison.
The challenge for these types of programs as well as CCHC is funding because 83% of CCHC’s patients are uninsured. With the rise in unemployment and North Carolina having not yet expanded Medicaid, CCHC expects to see a dramatic increase in uninsured patients needing care in the coming months or years. Having such a high uninsured rate increases their need for community support. There are immediate needs for self-monitoring tools like blood pressure monitors and other supplies they can use and distribute in the drive-thru clinics. CCHC is also looking for volunteers to make masks for patients and for donations of more PPE for staff. Plus, a donation of $155 provides an office visit for an uninsured patient, $25 provides a telehealth visit for an uninsured patient and $15 provides an after-hours triage call for a patient. CCHC is providing care to those who cannot afford it and together we can help them to provide the best care by sharing what we have.DID YOU KNOW: Charlotte Community Health Clinic is in the running to win $5K this month thanks to Amy and Brian France Foundation who have partnered with SHARE Charlotte for this year’s Spotlight Series and YOU can help when you VOTE NOW! You can also check out the other organizations eligible to win this month’s prize, here!