By RUTH LILJENQUIST
“A natural fit.”
That’s the best way to describe a new collaboration between St. Elizabeth’s Health Center, an agency of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, and Mercy Care Plan, a Catholic nonprofit that manages health care for Arizona AHCCCS patients. This new collaboration expands capacity for Mercy Care Plan members in the Tucson area to receive care at St. E’s and benefit from its “Patient-Centered Medical Home” care model, while St. E’s, with reimbursement from Mercy Care Plan, can strengthen its mission to serve the uninsured and underserved.
While St. E’s has provided quality care since it was established 50 years ago, the providers and staff are excited about the development and implementation of the new model, in which patients maintain a relationship with a primary care provider, who coordinates and monitors patient care, especially as the person accesses care from other health providers, services, and facilities.
The new model has been shown to improve health outcomes, not only because health care is coordinated among providers but because of the numerous supports that are provided to patients to help them succeed in improving their health. St. E’s, for example, provides chronic disease management, weight loss and prenatal education programs, while also employing promotoras (community health workers) to educate and follow up with patients.
The number of Mercy Care Plan members receiving care at St. E’s will now expand with the addition of new providers, and these members will benefit from the new model, which at St. E’s is particularly adapted to the needs of low-income patients.
The new collaboration comes a year after Arizona cut funding for clinics like St. E’s. “Arizona Primary Care” dollars from the state made up a third of the center’s revenue, and when that funding was eliminated effective June 30, 2010, St. E’s had to make deep cuts, reducing costs wherever possible and laying off employees.
While the last year has been tough, St. E’s has continued serving, primarily through the loyal support of volunteer health professionals, who have given generously of their time and expertise, and numerous donors, community organizations, and businesses who have supported the center with donations, grants, and in-kind gifts and services. Now with the Mercy Care Plan collaboration, St. E’s will be able to strengthen its current capacity.
The common purpose of St. E’s and Mercy Care Plan, as well as their respective resources, make this collaboration a natural fit.
As Mercy Care Plan CEO Mark Fisher expressed in a recent letter to the CCS Board of Directors, “Mercy Care Plan shares the focus of St. Elizabeth’s Health Center in facilitating access to health care and motivating healthy behaviors for persons of low income. We look forward to working more closely with St. Elizabeth’s Health Center in their 50th anniversary year and sharing their mission.”
Volunteer at St. E’s
St. Elizabeth is eager to welcome new health professionals as volunteer providers for the center’s uninsured and underserved patients. Please call (520) 670-0917 for more information.