Editor’s Note: Cheryl Henshaw, National Director of Poly’s Grants Assistance Program co-authored this post.
The recently approved American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides an unprecedented amount of funding for healthcare with a primary focus on COVID response and recovery. The plan puts a strong emphasis on increasing healthcare capacity – including health professional and paraprofessional workforce development, graduate medical education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention. Investment in collaboration technologies that enable telehealth and remote learning is encouraged in the various component programs under the ARP umbrella, serving as a critical element of providing equitable access to these educational and clinical services
Today, we will highlight one component healthcare program of the ARP – The Health Services and Resource Administration’s (HRSA) $6.1 Billion H8F funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
FQHCs play a significant healthcare delivery role for medically underserved and vulnerable populations. FQHCs serve as the medical home for tens of millions of Americans, providing primary medical and dental care, mental/behavioral health and substance abuse services, care coordination, disease management, maternal health, and early child development services. Many FQHCs provide health services in public schools, including school-based telehealth. These valuable, but traditionally underfunded health centers will soon have the opportunity to enhance their operations through the HRSA H8F funding program. The use of funds allows for everything from investments in collaboration infrastructure and technologies to upgrading facilities and deploying mobile units that allow for the continuity of operations and greater access to healthcare services.
The program’s initial focus is on COVID response and recovery-related activities such as testing, contact tracing, treatment, training health professionals, vaccine scheduling and administration, medical oversight post-vaccination, and follow-up. Collaboration technologies – including voice and video platforms – have a significant role to play here for contact tracing; COVID testing and vaccine administration coordination, training and oversight; and delivery of essential clinical services by telehealth. As a critical mass of citizens gets vaccinated, the focus will shift to capacity building, and the H8F funding will allow FQHCs to expand clinical service offerings and access to care using telehealth technologies.
HOW CAN HRSA H8F FUNDS BE UTILIZED
Some examples of use cases where collaboration technologies can build FQHCs’ healthcare capacity are listed on the program’s website, and have been summarized below:
- Maintaining & Increasing Capacity for Primary Care Services – Expanding and enhancing health center telehealth capacity to perform triage, deliver care, support care transitions, and support follow-up via telehealth. Support access to virtual care for patients with unstable/no housing or other barriers to accessing care. Supporting care coordination with other health care providers for patients that require hospitalization or other advanced care and treatment not available through the health center. Providing short-term health services to individuals recovering from an acute illness or injury. Enhancing or expanding access to behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorder) services.
- Recovery & Stabilization – Enhancing and expanding the health care workforce and services to meet pent up demand due to delays in patients seeking preventive and routine care; address the behavioral health, chronic conditions, and other needs of those who have been out of care; and support the well-being of personnel who have been on the front lines of the pandemic. Enhancing patient activation and engagement, including through virtual and in-person outreach and education, self-management programs and techniques, partnerships with families and caregivers, patient-centered care coordination, and other evidence-based interventions to support self-care. Increasing team-based and inter-professional service delivery through both in-person and virtual visits to provide continuity of care.
- Infrastructure: Minor Alteration/Renovation (A/R), Mobile Units, & Vehicles – Facilitating access to mobile testing and vaccinations, as well as other primary care activities. Reconfiguring space to maximize the ongoing use of telehealth technology (e.g., configuring spaces to better accommodate video screens and creating telehealth command centers).
TAKING ACTION TO ACCESS ARP FUNDS
HRSA H8F funds have already been allocated to FQHCs based on a formula that includes the number of patients served, among other factors. FQHCs must now submit paperwork to be able to access the funds which includes a budget detailing how the funds will be spent and a “use case” justification. As with much of the stimulus funding, there is no exhaustive list of “eligible vs ineligible” items; instead, FQHCs should align their intended use of funds to the funding priorities (which are broad in scope). Matching the challenges faced by the FQHC with the use of funding to address those challenges and then aligning technology expenditures to the funding priorities is the clearest path to ensure your proposed expenditures are approved.
For more information or support on how to construct that justification, or on grant funding in general, please feel free to contact the Poly Grants Assistance Program (PGAP) at firstname.lastname@example.org. The PGAP team will also bring in technical and telehealth experts from the Poly team to assist with case development and designing solutions that match your FQHC’s needs.