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By Rose Hoban

Diabetes patients in Southeastern NC counties, people with chronic pain in 16 Western NC counties, and homeless patients statewide will be getting a little more health care, thanks to grants announced today by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Officials at the US DHHS announced today three North Carolina sites will be on the receiving end of federal incentives to provide innovative health care to these underserved populations.

Image courtesy of Images of Money, Flickr Creative Commons Credit: Images of Money, Flickr Creative Commons

The “Innovation Challenge Grant” recipients were chosen from among hundreds of projects proposed all over the country. Federal DHHS officials describe them as “innovative projects that will save money, deliver high quality medical care and enhance the health care workforce,” according to a statement released by the federal DHHS. The agency estimates the 26 projects granted throughout the US will save $254 million over the next three years.

One project will be administered through Duke University, where doctors, nurses and patient educators will identify patients with diabetes in Durham and Cabarrus Counties, and work with them to have better clinical outcomes. The program will combine the use of electronic records, mapping, and a corps of community-based health care workers to intensively treat patients.

“Diabetes is a devastating problem, but is especially far-reaching in the Southeastern region of the United States,” project leader Robert M. Califf, M.D., vice chancellor for clinical research at Duke, said in a statement. “Previous approaches have not been able to stem the tide. Changing the course of the diabetes epidemic requires a radically new approach.”

“We believe we can achieve the triple aim of better outcomes, better health care and lower cost,” Califf said.

NC grant recipients include:

Duke University, Durham (in collaboration with organizations in Mississippi and West Virginia)
Project Title:  “From clinic to community:  achieving health equity in the southern United States”
Total funding amount: $9,773,499
Estimated 3-year savings: $20.8 million

  • Local home care teams will provide patient-centered coordinated care to improve outcomes for patients with Type 2 diabetes, and lower cost — expecting to reduce hospital and emergency room admissions and reduce through preventive care the need for amputations, dialysis, and cardiac procedures.

Mountain Area Health Education Center, Asheville
Project Title:  “Regional integrated multi-disciplinary approach to prevent and treat chronic pain in North Carolina”
Funding Amount: $1,186,045
Estimated 3-Year Savings: $2.4 million

  • Multidisciplinary teams will provide primary care, using mid-level providers (Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and others) to coordinate on care for about 2,000 patients. Care will include counseling and medication management services to improve pain management and reduce rates of addiction to prescription pain relievers. The result is expected to be better pain control, improved health, a reduction in the frequency of outpatient visits.

The National Health Care for the Homeless Council working with Lincoln Community Health Center, Durham (other sites in NH, TX, NB, MA, IL, FL, CA)
Project Title:  “Community health workers and Health Care for the Homeless:  a partnership to promote primary care”
Funding Amount: $2,681,877
Estimated 3-Year Savings: $1.5 million

  • Community Health Centers in ten sites across the U.S. will serve about 1700 patients. The goal is to reduce the number of emergency department visits, and lack of primacy care services for homeless individuals. Community health workers will conduct outreach and case coordination to stop the cycle of homeless people seeking care at emergency departments, and get them into health center, thus improving quality of care, and helping them get help to get off the streets.

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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...