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Grant Moves GBMC HealthCare Closer to Health Equity Goals

June 13, 2022
At GBMC HealthCare, we make our vision bold and clear. This means providing a safe, healing, culturally competent healthcare experience to every patient, every time, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, ability, gender identity or expression, demographic, or religion.

In 2019, GBMC partnered with Helping Up Mission (HUM) to ensure its growing number of clients received coordinated and comprehensive primary care services. What the team found was many residents in the surrounding area were without a reliable home for their healthcare as well.

In 2022, GBMC received a multi-year, $1.5 million grant from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC)*. This funding was awarded under the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act, legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly. Under the program, GBMC will expand its Health Partners Primary Care—Jonestown location as well as provide in-home medical care through the Gilchrist Elder Medical Care (EMC) program to residents of zip codes 21202 and 21218.

“The Commission looks forward to working with GBMC and its community partners as they work to implement the program,” Mark Luckner, CHRC Executive Director, said. “This grant will bring much needed resources to address health disparities and improve health outcomes.”

With this funding and a talented team of medical experts, GBMC will work with community partners to:
  • Expand primary care delivery and access
  • Eliminate health disparities, specifically addressing high rates of chronic disease
  • Reduce healthcare costs and Emergency Department utilization in the area
  • Bring medical care into the homes of those who cannot leave home
  • Partner with community organizations to address barriers that prevent people from reaching their health goals
“Having an advanced primary care patient-centered medical home, it’s mind and body, one stop. We will not only take care of you and your body, but also any social issues or behavioral issues,” Erlene Washington, CPA, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of GBMC Health Partners, said. “At GBMC, you get everything you need in one place. Or, if you need the same service at home, you can have that, too, with the Gilchrist Elder Medical Care program.”

The terms advanced primary care and patient-centered medical home are often used interchangeably. Both reflect a commitment to being accountable for health with the patient. They focus on convenience, with extended hours, access to medical records and the ability to message providers directly with MyChart, as well as access to behavioral health services and a network of specialists, if needed.

Each primary care physician is a captain, leading a team focused on the unique needs of every individual patient and proactively following up with patients to practice preventive medicine and chronic disease management, which, in the neighborhoods this location serves, are vital.

Hospital admissions in the 21202 and 21218 zip codes are more than double the state averages, 52.4% of residents live below the poverty line, and 44.3% live in a food desert. And COVID-19 made the situation more dire.

“COVID-19 really drove home the need to be more engaged about health disparities in our community,” Cathy Hamel, President of Gilchrist and Executive Vice President of Continuing Care at GBMC, said. “It became obvious during COVID there are substantive differences in the way healthcare is delivered so we felt now is the right time to expand our health equity work. The difference in access and outcomes became too obvious to ignore.”

The pandemic engaged healthcare institutions at all levels, from hospitals like GBMC to payers like CareFirst and Amerigroup. Even GBMC’s patient survey partner, Press Ganey, is looking at how to capture patient experience feedback from a more diverse perspective to provide detailed, data-driven feedback on how GBMC can serve minority communities better.

“We are doing a disservice to patients when we don’t truly understand what the needs are,” Washington said. “Some would say we are treating everyone the same when it comes to healthcare, but should we? We need to tailor our approach based on the needs of the diverse communities we serve.”

GBMC has experience and expertise in providing advanced primary care and is committed to bringing that level of care to all communities. Part of that work recognizes resources and services need to be tailored to individual and community needs. GBMC is working toward equity by recognizing barriers to good health do not reside solely in primary care.

“There is a triad of barriers that exist and prevent community members from getting the care they need. And we heard about these barriers directly from residents in the community,” Wayman Scott, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Relations at Gilchrist and Baltimore City resident, said. “We are serious about this work and learning from the community about their challenges. Across three community needs assessments and multiple listening sessions, we identified misinformation, mistrust, and confusion about insurance as top concerns.”

Being visible at community events—B’more Healthy Expo, Healthy Kids Baltimore, the Healing City Baltimore summit­—as well as events, such as Walk with a Doc and working with more than 12 community partners in the areas of transportation, food access, legal assistance, and behavioral health services, GBMC can ensure residents have the wraparound services they need, but also gain the trust of residents as a healthcare resource that is here to stay.

Charles Wheeler, a HUM graduate, who visited the Jonestown practice during his time at HUM, appreciated the accessibility and care he received with GBMC.

“I get anxiety ... I felt more at home when I went to GBMC,” Wheeler said. “It was the way the ladies treated you. I [received] the utmost empathy because they could feel what I felt coming into the doctor’s office. She did not just say, ‘He’s another patient.’”

Accessibility was important for HUM residents. Many had lived on the streets for long periods of time, and most had not had consistent healthcare. HUM clients often have numerous health-related issues, and GBMC was able to be next door to provide clients direct access. Seeing how important that access was led GBMC to ensure services were also available for home-bound residents.

Gilchrist’s EMC program is for individuals who have trouble getting to office appointments with multiple specialists and no one to guide overall care. Gilchrist’s team of physicians, nurse practitioners, and social workers are experts in providing coordinated geriatric care and guidance to improve quality of life. As a result, the team ensures those who would otherwise fall through the cracks of the healthcare system receive the care and attention they need.

“There’s a lot of elderly people in this community that I’ve noticed that can’t get on a bus, but they got access to GBMC. That’s beautiful to bring a big firm like GBMC to a community like this,” Wheeler said.

“We do primary care so well and our metrics prove it,” Ericka Easley, MHA, GBMC Jonestown Practice Manager, Service Line Administrator for Primary Care, and Baltimore City resident, said. “If we can prolong our patients' lives for another 20 years, that’s amazing. Hope is not lost, and situations can be turned around.”

*This program is funded by the Maryland General Assembly as part of the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act. Grant funding is administered by the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission. For more information, please visit this website. The views presented here are those of the grantee organization and not necessarily those of the Commission, its Commissioners, or its staff.
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