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New BRH-MAHEC Health Center FAQs

Overview: Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation (HCHF) is excited to announce a formal agreement to expand access to primary care on the Highlands-Cashiers plateau by funding a new Community Health Center that includes a rural teaching program in conjunction with UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC. The partnership is with Blue Ridge Health (BRH), and the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and is supported by the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation (HCHF). This collaboration exemplifies the fulfillment of the HCHF mission to improve the health and well-being of Highlands, Cashiers, and surrounding communities.

FAQs

About Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation

The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation was established on February 1, 2019 as an independent public charity with a mission to improve the health and wellbeing of Highlands, Cashiers, and surrounding communities. As the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital successor foundation we are committed to continuing a several-decade legacy of generosity and vision to ensure vibrant and healthy living for our year-round, seasonal and visiting families and individuals. Through partnerships with organizations, key stakeholders and caring donors, the Foundation aims to make positive and lasting change through investing in projects and programs that advance innovative solutions and improvements in peoples’ health and well-being. For more information please visit the website: www.hchealthfnd.org or call 828-482-6510.

Why is the Foundation taking a “Leap of Faith” to fund this project?

There has been a long-term critical shortage of primary care doctors on our plateau reflecting the national problem of unstable, high-turnover primary care physicians in rural areas.  In 2019, we reached a crisis of very few physicians serving the plateau. This was a frightening reality for our population that ranges from 8,000 in the off-season to more than 40,000 during the summer season with a large percentage of residents over the age of 65 at greater risk for health conditions. After nearly a year of searching for solutions with area health professionals and organizations, the Foundation agreed to provide funding support for a Community Health Center operated by BRH and a rural medicine teaching practice operated by MAHEC.  These two highly experienced organizations will address the root causes of the enduring physician shortage issue and thereby ensure sustainable primary care for our rural communities on the plateau.

Who is Blue Ridge Health (BRH)?

Blue Ridge Health is a non-profit 501(c)3 healthcare organization operating 28 sites across WNC including 13 School Based Health Centers that offer a full array of family medicine services. The mission of BRH is to provide quality healthcare that is accessible and affordable for all. For over 55 years, BRH has provided high-quality healthcare and now serves more than 40,000 individuals annually. BRH sites are currently located in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Polk, Rutherford, Swain and Transylvania Counties.

Who will be the doctors?

Physician team recruitment is already underway and being conducted by a collaborative group of community members, BRH, MAHEC and local hospital leaders.

Where will the new Community Health Center be located and when will it open? 

More details will be announced in the coming months regarding the location, timeline and physician team that will serve the area. It is anticipated the new center will open sometime between January and June 2021.

How will quality care be delivered?

The physicians will be board certified in family medicine.  BRH is accredited for patient safety and quality and is recognized as a Level 3 patient-centered medical home (PCMH) by the national Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) – the highest level of PCMH accreditation offered by NCQA

Who is MAHEC?

Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) was established in 1974 to improve training and retention of healthcare professionals across WNC. MAHEC is also home to UNC Health Sciences, a vibrant academic health center that includes branch campuses of the UNC School of Medicine. Located in Asheville, MAHEC serves NC’s 16 westernmost counties and is one of nine state Area Health Education Centers that address national and state concerns with the supply, retention, and quality of health professionals especially in rural areas.      

What is a MAHEC rural medicine teaching practice?

MAHEC’s Rural Medicine Teaching Practice program will continuously recruit, place and train physicians and healthcare providers at the BRH Community Health Center here on the plateau in conjunction with schools affiliated with UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC. This provides an ongoing stream of health professionals in-training leading to a continuous supply of healthcare providers in our rural area. Research shows that healthcare professionals who train in rural settings are much more likely to practice there.

Will the Foundation operate the community health center?

No. The Foundation will fund the start-up costs as an investment in the healthcare for the community by committing substantial financial backing to ensure a secure, established beginning.  We anticipate the project will be self-sustaining in 3-5 years.

How will the community health center on the plateau be funded?

Charitable gifts channeled through the Foundation will be critical to the success of this project. BRH is a private 501(c)3 non-profit organization. BRH accepts private and public insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare, and offers a sliding fee scale for patients who otherwise could not afford care. No one is ever turned away for inability to pay.

Who is served?

Patients of all ages, backgrounds and income levels are welcome no matter where they live. BRH serves patients with private and public insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. Patients without health insurance, and those with high deductible plans, qualify for a sliding fee scale based on income and household size. This is not a free clinic with volunteer staff and providers. All BRH staff members are employed and credentialed as required.

What services are provided?

In the first year, an array of primary care services will be provided. As the center grows, other services such as behavioral health, nutritional counseling, health education, and school-based health services may be added

How will this affect our local Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and their primary care clinics? 

BRH and MAHEC are working collaboratively with the hospital to ensure everyone in our community has access to quality and affordable primary care services. Particular attention is being paid to avoid duplication of services and enhance the use of existing hospital services.

What about the Highlands Community Care Free Clinic?  

Our intent is to expand access to care. BRH will work closely with our Community Care Free Clinic to coordinate services with our uninsured vulnerable population.  

What services are provided?

In the first year, an array of primary care services will be provided. As the center grows, other services such as behavioral health, nutritional counseling, health education, and school-based health services may be added.

 

More questions? Please feel free to call Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation

at 828-482-6510