WORCESTER – Family Health Center of Worcester was awarded the top two quality grant awards, given to a small percentage of community health centers across the country, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration.
In a ceremony Thursday at Family Health Center’s headquarters at 26 Queen St., Jeffrey Beard, HRSA regional administrator, presented the health center’s clinical and quality improvement leaders with certificates representing a $51,635 gold award for National Quality Leaders and a $41,635 silver award for Health Center Quality Leaders.
Family Health Center is one of only four community health centers in the state, and the only one in Central Massachusetts, to receive the National Quality Leaders award. The designation is reserved for community health centers that exceed national benchmarks such as Healthy People 2020 goals.
It is one of 16 health centers statewide, among 39 total, and the only in this region, to receive the Health Center Quality Leaders award. This award goes to the top 30 percent of community health centers that achieve the best overall clinical performance.
Family Health Center of Worcester President and CEO Frances Anthes said that while the federally qualified health center has received other quality awards in the past, this is the first time it received such high recognition from HRSA.
She said the grant money, part of the total $166,405 quality improvement grant the center is receiving, will be targeted to increase activities involving data to measure quality improvements and outcomes.
The award presentation comes toward the end of National Health Center Week, for which the theme is celebrating America’s health care heroes.
Mr. Beard said community health centers, which provide access to quality, coordinated primary care to more than 27 million people nationwide, without regard to patients’ ability to pay, are filled with health care heroes. “People know they’re going to be served. They’re not going to be judged,” he said.
“At the end of the day, Family Health Center is saving lives; community health centers are saving lives; and HRSA is helping to save lives,” Mr. Beard said.
What makes community health centers unique is they are consumer based, according to Ms. Anthes. Health center boards of directors must have a majority of directors be patients.
“We respond to the needs of our community because our community sits on our board,” she said.
Afia Brayie Ossei, a patient and newly confirmed board member at Family Health Center, spoke about why it was so important for health care providers to reflect the people they serve.
“If only they had listened,” Ms. Ossei, an immigrant from Ghana, began as she told a tragic story about a mother whose 18-year-old daughter died at a hospital in Boston, where she said medical staff didn’t listen to the girl’s family.
“Family Health Center is not like that,” she continued. “They listen to everybody, especially the patient.”
Ms. Ossei, a first-time new mother, said she had wondered whether health center staff would listen to her request to change to a female health care provider three weeks before her baby was due, because she was uncomfortable being seen by a male clinician. Within a day, her request was granted.
She also received support from the Baby Cafe at Family Health Center, which encouraged her to continue to exclusively breastfeed her now 4-month-old son despite pressure from relatives to give him water and formula.
“This shows that Family Health Center, all the people working here, really do listen to the patient view,” she said.
Michael Curry, senior vice president for government affairs and public policy at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, recalled that Dr. Jack Geiger, a founding father of the community health center movement more than 50 years ago, believed that health centers were about changing communities and saving lives.
“That movement they started many years ago is making a difference here in Worcester,” Mr. Curry said.
Family Health Center of Worcester has 16 locations in Worcester, Southbridge, Webster and Millbury, and delivers care in 55 languages.
Other community health centers in Central Massachusetts that received HRSA quality improvement grants, in a range of categories, include: Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, in Worcester, Milford, Clinton and Framingham, $85,445; Community Health Connections, in Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner, $111,144; and Community Healthlink mental health and substance abuse services, in Worcester, Leominster, Clinton and Fitchburg, $50,876.
Worcester Telegram & Gazette