Changing the safety net webbing Private groups move to meet needs in new public health care system.

March 20, 1997

HEALTH CARE REFORM in Maryland is changing the webbing of the safety net for the disadvantaged, with the end to public services traditionally provided through the county health departments. The new challenges will be felt by charities and nonprofit organizations, as well as by the private health care community.

Carroll County closed its well-child clinic in January. The agency provided important preventive health care, such as immunizations and examinations, to children whose families -Z lacked health insurance.

Moving to help pick up the slack is the Carroll County Children's Fund, a local charity that has for 13 years provided assistance to uninsured and under-insured families who have exhausted other sources of aid. The organization is connecting eligible families with private physicians who will provide children with needed preventive health care.

The fund's modest $50,000 annual budget, financed by community support, will increase significantly. It will still assist with expenses for chronically ill children and for health emergencies not covered by other programs.

By the end of June, the county's mental health bureau will close, shifting outpatient care for low-income persons to a privately managed system that is to contract with local providers.

While taxpayer money will still be used to fund those mental health services, now provided for some 1,100 outpatients in Carroll, therapy will be administered through private offices.

A Westminster non-profit group that counsels people with mental problems in daily living skills, Granite House, is joining with ADAPT Inc., an association of psychiatrists and therapists, to provide a full-service outpatient mental health clinic. It is the first group licensed by the state in Carroll under the new system. Eventually, the group wants to expand its offerings, bringing in other non-profit mental health organizations that work with troubled families and the homeless.

The hope is that the new system can continue to provide for those in need. That will undoubtedly require greater private donations of time and money to support charities and nonprofit organizations that aim to meet these important health care needs of the community.

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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