Cen­tral Health can boast of sig­nif­i­cant strides

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - www.Cen­tral­Health­Con­nec­tion.net. lit­tle is chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and co-founder of har­den health­care in austin. he was a mem­ber of Cit­i­zens for a healthy travis County, the or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ported the cre­ation of a health care district in travis Cou

Travis County vot­ers ral­lied in 2004 be­hind a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive mes­sage — “Save Money. Save Lives.” — and ap­proved the cre­ation of a spe­cial district fo­cused on health care. Now called Cen­tral Health, the or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fi­cially be­gan its work in Au­gust 2004 fo­cus­ing its funds and strate­gies on ways to de­liver on that prom­ise.

To­day, as we look back on its first five fis­cal years, Cen­tral Health has helped Travis County make sig­nif­i­cant strides to­ward be­com­ing a model healthy com­mu­nity, the vi­sion that the Cen­tral Health board of man­agers adopted dur­ing its inaugural term.

These ef­forts have helped more peo­ple get the care they need, when and where they need it, which saves money and saves lives. Cen­tral Health’s ac­com­plish­ments have im­proved the qual­ity of life of thou­sands in Travis County and have helped our com­mu­nity main­tain its eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness. This is shown by the ser­vice ex­pan­sions that Cen­tral Health has been able to achieve while hav­ing the low­est tax rate of all ur­ban hos­pi­tal dis­tricts. Cen­tral Health’s suc­cess also demon­strates sound man­age­ment and wise stew­ard­ship of pub­lic dol­lars.

Cen­tral Health, for­merly known as the Travis County Health­care District, re­cently re­leased a few of the mile­stones of its first five fis­cal years, high­lighted be­low, and set the stage for more progress to come.

En­hanced emer­gency care. Af­ter more than $6.2 mil­lion in in­vest­ments from Cen­tral Health and sub­stan­tial ad­di­tional in­vest­ments from its part­ner, Se­ton Fam­ily of Hos­pi­tals, Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter Brack­en­ridge earned Level 1 Trauma Cen­ter sta­tus. This means that Brack­en­ridge is pro­vid­ing the widest range of emer­gency care ser­vices pos­si­ble to the peo­ple of Cen­tral Texas.

More peo­ple cov­ered. More than 14,300 peo­ple in our com­mu­nity had ac­cess to the care they need in 2009, as en­roll­ment in the Cen­tral Health Med­i­cal As­sis­tance Pro­gram ex­panded by nearly 80 per­cent from 2005. Cen­tral Health also has sup­ported other so­lu­tions to con­nect peo­ple to care. One ex­am­ple is TexHealth Cen­tral Texas, a non­profit cor­po­ra­tion that of­fers low-cost health ben­e­fits pro­grams to small busi­nesses that oth­er­wise can’t af­ford cov­er­age for their em­ploy­ees.

More providers and bet­ter ac­cess. Cen­tral Health has ex­panded the net­work of pri­mary, spe­cialty and ur­gent care providers. These new providers, to­gether with ad­di­tional lo­ca­tions and ex­panded hours, have helped more peo­ple ac­cess the care they need when they need it. To­tal pri­mary care vis­its in the Cen­tral Health net­work have in­creased by 25 per­cent since 2005.

Ex­panded mental health care. Our com­mu­nity faced a cri­sis in 2004, as peo­ple in need of emer­gency mental health ser­vices were turned away from the over­crowded Austin State Hos­pi­tal. Cen­tral Health led a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort that cre­ated more in­pa­tient beds, in­ten­sive out­pa­tient care, cri­sis respite care, mo­bile cri­sis out­reach and ex­panded emer­gency ser­vices.

As part of that col­lab­o­ra­tive, Cen­tral Health in­vests more than $5 mil­lion per year, re­sult­ing in crit­i­cal in­pa­tient mental health ser­vices for more than 1,100 in­di­vid­u­als.

Sim­pler, eas­ier en­roll­ment. Cen­tral Health has stream­lined screen­ing ser­vices so peo­ple can get care quickly and eas­ily. These ser­vices in­clude “vir­tual en­roll­ment,” fi­nan­cial screen­ing at provider lo­ca­tions, re-en­roll­ment by mail, and a new cus­tomer ser­vice call cen­ter that stream­lines ap­pli­ca­tion ap­point­ment sched­ul­ing. This call cen­ter launched last year and pro­cessed nearly 30,000 calls in its first six months.

These achieve­ments set the stage for con­tin­ued ad­vances and bet­ter re­sponses to the chal­lenges we face — as in­di­vid­u­als, as a com­mu­nity and re­gion and as a nation — to pro­vide ac­ces­si­ble health care. Our abil­ity to meet these chal­lenges will de­pend greatly on sound man­age­ment of the health care sys­tem’s re­sources and of the taxes we all pay.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion has launched a com­mu­nity plan­ning ini­tia­tive, Cen­tral Health Con­nec­tion, to en­gage Cen­tral Tex­ans in talk­ing, imag­in­ing and act­ing to cre­ate a model healthy com­mu­nity. The sup­port of res­i­dents, busi­nesses, health care pro­fes­sion­als and com­mu­nity lead­ers, work­ing to­gether, helped cre­ate Cen­tral Health and made these suc­cesses pos­si­ble.

As na­tional health re­form rolls out, our con­tin­ued sup­port of Cen­tral Health as a lo­cal re­source to ad­dress un­met health care needs will make fu­ture suc­cesses just as pos­si­ble. Please join in the healthy con­ver­sa­tion at

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