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Health Care Quarterly:

Specialty centers are helping remove barriers to health care

Sun, Aug 25, 2019 (7:58 a.m.)

As one of the lowest ranking states for health care, according to U.S. News & World Report — determined by factors of access, quality and public health services — Nevada is challenged.

One path to improving our ranking is through federally qualified health centers. FQHCs are community centers that have emerged in recent years as a mainstay among local health-care systems.

Designated as key providers to the uninsured and low-income populations, they help underserved and vulnerable populations by providing high-quality health care, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

One such center is Silver State Health, founded in 2017. Silver State Health is a nonprofit that offers social, mental health and medical services and solutions to the physical and mental needs of the most vulnerable Nevada communities.

“Nevada is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. However, the medical, mental health and social infrastructure are significantly behind other states in providing quality services to vulnerable populations,” said Silver State Health Executive Director and CEO Ryan Linden.

In an effort to remove barriers that may prevent patients from receiving quality medical and mental health care, Silver State Health works with local organizations to provide transportation, food assistance, housing assistance, translation services, social services and more to give patients and their families an opportunity to receive well-rounded care and ensure their basic needs are being met. In addition, the agency merged with a bilingual behavioral health center, helping broaden their services to include mental health.

“Because of Las Vegas’ diversity, both culturally and ethnically, barriers often exist revolving around translation and the delivery of culturally competent health services,” said Linden. “For example, Silver State Health merged with the largest bilingual (Spanish) mental health service agency in Nevada to better cater to the growing Hispanic market. By integrating primary care alongside these established behavioral health models, we’re able to offer the community convenient, holistic and individualized care.”

As an FQHC, Silver State Health is required to provide primary care and supportive services that enable access to all, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay; to offer accessible locations and hours of operation including after-hours coverage; to hire culturally and linguistically appropriate physicians; to follow quality improvement plans; to discount costs of care based on a patient’s ability to pay and to collaborate with other providers.

“Uninsured and underinsured patients of the city have few resources to receive high-quality health care,” said Linden. “While Medicaid coverage has expanded over the past five years, without the robust services an FQHC is designed to offer this demographic, the expansion goes underutilized.”

Through increasing access to primary care and mental health services with a comprehensive action plan that includes socioeconomic support, Silver State’s specialists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, therapists and primary care physicians can work to achieve better health outcomes for Nevada and the greater United States, one patient and population at a time.

“Often times our patients are unable to prioritize their health care needs above more urgent housing, nutritional and mental health concerns. By addressing their underlying psychosocial development, we’re able to treat the entire individual and offer more sustainable results,” Linden said.

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