*HHS Announces $300 Million to Expand Optometry and other Services at Nation's Community Health Centers*
On June 3rd, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the fiscal year 2014 Expanded Services (ES) supplemental funding opportunity for existing federally qualified health centers to expand hours, hire more providers, and establish additional services, including oral health, behavioral health, pharmacy, and vision services. This funding opportunity comes as a result of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which provided a $700 million boost over last year's budget to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), including $300 million in Affordable Care Act funds for health center expansion grants.
Now is an opportune time for member optometrists to contact their local CHCs to offer assistance and expertise in developing on-site vision services within the center. Vision start-up monies under this supplemental funding are not large; averaging approximately $150,000 per health center, but this funding can be leveraged to establish a new optometry service, staffed by a local optometrist that can rapidly become self-sustaining.
The due date for grant applications is July 1.
AOA members are urged to:
1. Read more about the Fiscal Year 2014 Health Center Expanded Services (ES) grant program. Use the resources available on this page to educate yourself on community health centers and the options available for the expansion of vision services.
2. Find health centers in your area through HRSA's website.
3. Reach out to your health center's CEO or CMO. Educate them on the importance of vision care services in underserved areas and the opportunity the ES grant can provide in meeting that need.
The AOA Health Center Committee has developed an updated business plan to help CHCs best utilize the expansion grant funding to set up on-site vision services (a PDF version containing only the Minimum Equipment Necessary page of the full business plan is available here). AOA members with questions should contact AOA Washington office staffers Michael Dueñas, O.D. or Kelli White, or Chair of the AOA Health Center Committee, Lillian Kalaczinski, OD.
Community Health Centers (CHCs) are multidisciplinary, community-governed health care facilities designed to deliver comprehensive health services, address health disparities and improve access to care for underserved populations. Eye and vision services are greatly underrepresented at CHCs with only 18% of centers providing in-house optometric services. AOA has partnered with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) to improve access to eye and vision care services at CHCs. Optometry has a unique opportunity to build an entirely new career path for optometrists interested in public health by advocating for and providing eye and vision care services at CHCs.
For more information about Community Health Centers and additional CHC practice resources:
FQHC Reimbursement for Vision Services in Medicaid
Medicaid Prospective Payment System
Health Center Information, including Financial/Operations Management and Health Center Growth and Development
To find a Community Health Center near you log on to www.bphc.hrsa.gov.
A New England College of Optometry student uses a biomicroscope to perform an external eye examination on a patient at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.
The AOA Health Center Committee (HCC) is supporting the development of programs and policies associated with optometry at CHCs. The AOA HCC is working to:
- Create a new career path for optometrists interested in working at community health centers by developing a model recruitment and compensation package that can be utilized by CHCs.
- Assure that optometry is included in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship and loan repayment program.
- Assure that optometry becomes eligible for Graduate Medical Education funding.
- Assist State Optometric Associations and State Primary Care Associations to assure that optometry is included in state loan repayment programs.
- Initiate and communicate the outcomes of a collaborative professional needs assessment for eye and vision services at CHCs.
- Continue to report on progress made with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).
- Continue to work with NACHC and other advocates to develop funding opportunities and business plans for health centers interested in adding on-site eye and vision care services.
- Work with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry to develop affiliation agreements and clinical rotations at CHCs for students and residents.
- Develop presentations for use at national and state meetings on the need for eye and vision care services, and how to start an eye care service at CHCs.
For questions or more information about the work performed by the HCC, please contact Kelli White in the AOA Washington Office, or the Chair of the Health Center Committee, Lillian Kalaczinski, OD.