Serving Monroe, Owen, and Greene Counties

Re-Imagining Health Care in Monroe County and Beyond

Community members gathered for coffee and breakfast early on Thursday, November 14 for a very special Wake Up! with United Way: “Re-Imagining Health Care in Monroe County and Beyond.” Nancy Richman, Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), presented the exciting news that VIM will be partnering with HealthNet to become a Federally Qualified Health Center. 
 
Although this announcement brings significant changes, Richman was clear that VIM’s mission will live on in the community. 
 
“For a while people need to be thinking, Bloomington Health Center – formerly Volunteers in Medicine,’” she said.  
 
VIM began as a free clinic dedicated to providing care to those in our community without health insurance. Richman explained that as health care in our country has expanded, more people have become insured. However, becoming insured did not always guarantee access to care.  
 
“There are too many people who are insured that lack access to adequate services,” she said. “We have a health care system that really isn’t set up for insured people lacking in resources.” 
 
In our community, insured people face barriers when seeking health care such as lack of access to transportation, inability to afford childcare, a shortage of primary care facilities, and more. According to Richman, 70 percent of urgent care patients in our area have no primary care physician.  
 
As these issues grew, Richman was tasked with assessing how VIM could better serve the community.  
 
“The conclusion was that the free clinic model, which provides services only to people who are uninsured, is too limiting for the health care environment,” she said. 
 
Richman and staff at VIM began looking into options, like becoming a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). She explained that FQHC’s were established by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the 1960s.  
 
“These are clinics located in underserved areas that provide care regardless of people’s ability to pay,” she said. 
 
Richman explained the many requirements of FQHC’s that allow them to serve communities across the country. They serve all people regardless of their ability to pay, accept most insurances, and charge a sliding scale fee. They serve people of all ages from all geographic locations. The board must be made up of 51 percent patients. 
 
FQHC’s must provide primary care, including dental, vision, OB/GYN, addiction, and mental health services. They have expanded hours and after-hours urgent care. In addition to primary care, they provide social work and other resources.  
 
“They’re clinics that are focused on integrating social services that address the social determinants of health with primary care,” said Richman.  
 
After discussing the idea, VIM conducted a feasibility study to determine if a FQHC would work in the community. The results showed that not only would it work, it was needed. 
 
“Not only were we in a shortage area, but there were lots of clinical indicators,” said Richman. “We have a lot of illness and unmet need in this community.” 
 
With the decision made, VIM then needed to figure out how they would begin transitioning to a FQHC. Richman explained that they decided to explore the idea of partnering with HealthNet, a nonprofit FQHC network based in Indianapolis. After a few visits and conversations, Richman knew that HealthNet would be the perfect partner to help continue VIM’s mission. 
 
“They felt like VIM when we were there,” she said. “Their culture is like VIM. Their mission is VIM. They felt like us.” 
 
The decision to partner with HealthNet and commitment to transitioning to a FQHC allowed VIM to apply to a HRSA grant. They were awarded a two-year $1.3 million grant to help fund FQHC start-up costs like facility renovation, new equipment, staff recruitment, and other operational costs.  
 
VIM is well on its way to its full transition to the Bloomington Health Center. The facilities are being renovated and new staff is being hired. Effective December 31, VIM’s clinic and all assets will be acquired by HealthNet. Pending renovation timing, the center plans to be fully operational and accepting new patients by early February 2020. 
 
“This is very exciting for us,” Richman said, “and it is hugely sad because a chapter is ending.” 
 
The transition sadly means that VIM will be saying goodbye to many wonderful volunteers that have helped them provide the services they have for years. Once the Bloomington Health Center is well established, Richman is hoping to create a volunteer program that meets Joint Commission requirements.  
 
Despite all these big changes, Richman was adamant that the VIM mission will continue, and all in our community and beyond will continue to receive the care they need.  
 
“This expands our scope,” she said. “This does not limit our scope in any way.” 
 
 
Please visit vimmonroecounty.org and indyhealthnet.org for more information and updates on the transition.  
 
 
Want to learn more about topics discussed related to health care? Check out these links to learn more in-depth info.
 

Nancy Richman's FQHC Presentation >>

Volunteers in Medicine's December 2019 Newsletter >>

Community Engagement Resources >>

Information to Contact Your Lawmakers >>

Volunteers in Medicine's Website >>

HealthNet's Website >>

 
The 2019 season of Wake Up! with United Way has concluded. The breakfast series will return in February 2020 with the topic "Food Security in Monroe County" with a panel offering various perspectives on food security in Monroe County. Stay tuned for more information, tickets, and more topics for 2020. Sign up for Wake Up! updates and alerts here >>
 
Wake Up! with United Way's 2019 season has been a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and Indiana University's Political and Civic Engagement Program, with thanks to Old National Bank for series support.

 

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