Horizon, hospital make tie official

Partnership targets better care for aged, mentally ill in Howard

May 13, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

Older adults, people with mental illnesses and low-income individuals in Howard County should see improved health care services over the next few years under a new $3 million partnership between the Horizon Foundation and Howard County General Hospital.

After several years of planning, the Community Health Partnership officially took shape last week with a commitment of $950,000 over four years from Horizon -- the largest grant in that philanthropy's nine-year history -- and $2.1 million from the hospital.

Richard Krieg, Horizon's president and chief executive officer, said the partnership will combine not only funds, but expertise from both organizations under the guidance of a joint trustee committee that has been able to "think through what really are the objectives that we share."

During that process, he said, "both sides understood that the most compelling demographic, the most profound change that is going to shift in the county, is the shift to the older adult population."

About $2 million of the partnership's funding pool will be used to determine the feasibility of creating a center of excellence in geriatric health care at the hospital.

Experts will draw on examples from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and other institutions to figure out what such a center could look like, whether it would be a clearinghouse for information, a location for patients to receive treatment, a place to train doctors or all of those, Krieg said.

The partnership will examine the cost and logistical requirements of implementing the best practices. Further funding would be needed to put a plan into action.

Another area of concentration will be providing help to individuals who come into the hospital's emergency room with psychiatric needs.

The partnership will contribute $100,000 from the foundation and $275,000 from the hospital to be combined with $325,000 in state funding to support the behavioral emergency unit that opened at the hospital in February.

The hospital has the only emergency room in the county, and it reported a 4 percent increase in emergency psychiatric evaluations over the past two years.

The third area of focus for the partnership will be supporting Chase Brexton Health Services' Columbia Center, which provides health care to low-income patients, including those without insurance and those receiving Medicare and Medicaid.

With initial funding support from Horizon, Chase Brexton opened on Knoll North Drive in September, taking the place of the Health Alliance's free clinic and offering a broader range of primary health care services. Under the new partnership, the hospital will give $200,000 to support Chase Brexton and Horizon will give $50,000.

The hospital has also agreed to have its staff physicians provide acute care to Chase Brexton patients who are admitted to the hospital.

The hospital's president and chief executive officer, Victor A. Broccolino, said he was pleased to be entering into a partnership with Horizon that goes beyond a simple grant.

The two organizations already are connected. Horizon was created as an independent organization in 1998 with a $70 million contribution from the hospital when it joined Johns Hopkins Medicine. Since then, Krieg has served on the hospital's strategic planning committee and some individuals have served as trustees for both.

The new partnership is useful, Broccolino said, because while hospital administrators need to keep up with 74 specialties and subspecialties, Horizon can focus on in-depth planning for specific areas.

"They have the ability ... to bring in policy experts, to understand the long-term ability of their plans to sustain themselves," he said.


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.