CareFirst gives $400K to regional providers

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan Representatives of the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center and State Sen. Addie Eckardt (R-37), right, received a check for $49,850 from CareFirst.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Representatives of the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center and State Sen. Addie Eckardt (R-37), right, received a check for $49,850 from CareFirst.

CAMBRIDGE – CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield presented three Eastern Shore organizations with grants totaling more than $400,000 on Monday. The funds are aimed at improving access to health care for uninsured or underinsured patients, some of whom suffer from substance abuse disorders.

The ceremony took place at the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center (ESAHEC). Director of the Dorchester County Health Department Roger Harrell spoke to the assembly of health and community workers, thanking CareFirst for their assistance. “It’s that commitment that I’m very grateful for,” he said.

One of the grants, for $49,850, will go to ESAHEC, for its Asthma Home Visiting Program. “The program uses community health workers to help improve the quality of life for school-aged children with asthma,” a statement from CareFirst said. “The goal of the program is to decrease visits to emergency departments and urgent care centers for these children.”

Stephanie Malkus is a manager at ESAHEC. She spoke about the program, already underway with 10 families and looking to expand to 20, saying, “The results have been remarkable.”

Chase Brexton Health Services will receive $150,000 over two years. “Founded in 1978, Chase Brexton was established as a gay men’s health clinic,” the statement said. “Today, Chase offers comprehensive medical care including behavioral health, dental, pharmacy and case management services.”

Chase operates an Eastern Shore clinic serving Dorchester, Talbot and Kent counties. The organization is interested in expanding access to care to more uninsured or underinsured residents of the Shore. President and CEO of Chase Patrick Mutch said the agency has a total of five centers in the state, serving 250 patients on the Shore, and 34,000 in total.

The University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation will receive $212,171 over two years, to expand access to medication-assisted treatment via telemedicine. The University of Maryland Baltimore is the professional campus of the University System of Maryland and one of three major research universities in the state.

The goal of the program being funded by CareFirst is to increase access to medication-assisted treatment in rural areas of Maryland, using the successful telehealth model piloted at Wells House, a drug-treatment program for rural residents. Part of the grant money will be used to purchase telemedicine equipment to establish services in Talbot and Dorchester counties.

Telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to the clinical services of telemedicine. This process can be beneficial to residents of remote areas who have difficulty in traveling to medical care.

Dr. Eric Weintraub said services have been provided since last fall. “We’ve already treated 24 patients since October this way,” he said.
State Senator Addie Eckardt (R-37) said of CareFirst, “We appreciate their partnership. We don’t have enough primary care physicians in this area.”

“We’re so grateful to CareFirst,” Ms. Malkus said. “They put their trust in us.”

The Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center is located at 814 Chesapeake Drive in Cambridge. To learn more, call 410-221-2600 or visit www.esahec.org.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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