Wheeler’s Federally Qualified Health Center Scope Expands to Hartford, New Britain and Surrounding Communities
February 9, 2016 – Wheeler has expanded the scope of its federally qualified health center (FQHC) to meet the health care needs of individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders in Hartford, New Britain and surrounding communities. The expansion was approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. Wheeler’s Health & Wellness Center in Bristol, achieved designation as a federally qualified health center in August 2015.
“Our board, leadership and community partners have worked collaboratively to design strategies to address the alarming disparities in health and in access to health care, which so many of our consumers face,” said Susan Walkama, LCSW, president and chief executive officer, Wheeler Clinic.
Individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders are often reluctant to engage in primary care services and experience disparities in access to health care and health care outcomes. Many of the patients Wheeler currently serves from Hartford, New Britain and surrounding communities do not have a primary care physician, experience multiple co-morbid health disorders and are frequently seen in the emergency department. These patients have difficulty engaging in primary care through traditional channels. Their experience of stigma in health care settings and past exposure to trauma often create substantial barriers to care.
“We have already created a pilot, trauma-sensitive integrated primary and behavioral health care service continuum at the Hartford location and will build a similar model in New Britain,” said Walkama.
“This model provides a more effective path to engagement in primary and preventive care for individuals with serious mental illness and addiction disorders. The need for these services is critical, and this model significantly enhances both individual and population health outcomes.”
Starting in the spring, Wheeler will expand the scope of its federally qualified health center designation to include existing outpatient service sites in Hartford and New Britain:
Wheeler’s Hartford Health & Wellness Center, located at 999 Asylum Avenue, Hartford, will address the needs of individuals and consumers in the Hartford region. This service site will provide primary care, behavioral health services including psychiatry and enabling services as well as linkage to specialty care. Service delivery and coordination will be enhanced by a highly collaborative relationship with Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
Wheeler will expand the current service site, Wheeler's New Britain Health & Wellness Center, located at 75 North Mountain Road, New Britain, to address the needs of adults in the New Britain region. This service site will provide primary care, behavioral health services including psychiatry and enabling services as well as linkage to specialty care. Service delivery and coordination will be enhanced by a highly collaborative relationship with Bristol Hospital.
Community health centers like Wheeler’s have played a vital role in local health care systems across the country for more than 50 years, serving the primary healthcare needs of 23 million patients in more than 9,000 local communities. They provide affordable, accessible health services for millions of Americans, and their focus on comprehensive preventive care and unique local needs creates $24 billion in annual savings to the health care system.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has only increased their importance. Wheeler’s Health and Wellness Center aligns with models for whole-person health and accessibility that have become part of the ACA’s implementation, such as “medical homes” that manage all aspects of an individual’s health needs.
“Through effective collaboration with key community partners in Bristol, Hartford and New Britain, we will continue to make significant strides in reducing health disparities in the communities we serve,” said Walkama.