Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam www.tn.gov/governor created a Rural Task Force www.tn.gov/ecd/section/governors-rural-task-force with 18 different agencies and more than 120 people from all parts of the state taking part in the discussion. The purpose for the Task Force was to offer ideas for a Strategic Plan which has now been published to build stronger rural communities in the state.
Three ideas and programs proposed affecting healthcare included in the Strategic Plan are Mobile Integrated Health Care, Development of a State Oral Health Pilot Program, and Incentives to Recruit and Retain Health Care professionals in Tennessee’s rural areas.
The main objective for establishing Mobile Integrated Health Care is to expand community-based services in one to three pilots to take place in rural counties. The plan is to evaluate train, certify, enable community paramedicine professionals to deliver services, and if possible coordinate appropriately-licensed professionals via telehealth services.
The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) www.tn.gov/health in the Office of Emergency Services will oversee the pilots. TennCare will address payment models for community paramedicine and telehealth as part of the State Innovation Model.
The TDH Office of Rural Health www.tn.gov/tenncare, Tennessee Primary Care Association www.tnpca.org, and USDA Rural Development www.rd.usda.gov will collaborate to conduct an environmental scan of current telehealth services and secure funding to expand telehealth in distressed areas.
The total cost for the Mobile Integrated Health Care program is $616,000 with $66,000 for training and certifying EMS community paramedics, $25,000 for telehealth environmental planning, $300,000 for the expansion of telehealth, and $225,000 for subsidized services to patients receiving community paramedicine services.
Although FQHCs are located in economically distressed counties and offer primary healthcare services, oral health and dental services are not as readily available in these communities. In addition, TennCare does not cover adult dental services and there is a lack of dental coverage for low income adults.
Through the proposed Tennessee Oral Health Pilot program, TDH will support creating and expanding oral health services for adults in four of the targeted distressed rural counties where these services will be integrated into a primary healthcare setting.
The total cost for this initiative is $145,000. An additional $25,000 will be used to fund technical assistance to assure that the dental services are integrated with primary healthcare and are financially sustainable.
Recruitment is a serious issue in rural communities as it is difficult to recruit and retain health professionals to work in these areas. The funding included in the Strategic Plan will provide a total of $271,400 for recruitment.
The goal is to provide health professional training programs and publicize these programs to previous, current, and potential students, and healthcare service providers in targeted communities.
For more information, go to www.tn.gov/ecd/news/46047 then click on Strategic Plan.