2013-08-23 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Sylvester Okonkwo, Chairperson Board of Trustees Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center

For many years, Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center has served the families of the Rockaways with distinction and caring. I emphasize distinction because the quality of care at Addabbo stands out.

In a 2011 comparison of federally funded family health centers both in New York State and nationally, which was conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, Addabbo’s patient outcomes and prevention scores were exemplary.

Ninety percent of mothers at Addabbo had their first prenatal visit in the first trimester, compared to 76% of mothers in other New York State family health centers and 70% at family health centers nationally.

At Addabbo, 93% of two-year-olds were immunized, compared to only 45% at family health centers in New York State and 44% nationally. I believe the take home lesson here is that the quality of care provided by Addabbo is made possible because it remains true to its core mission: providing medical and family care, women’s health care, pediatrics and dentistry.

Recently, Addabbo initiated the closure of its mental health services. It was not because the services weren’t needed - although the numbers of patients had dwindled to 200 - or because subsidizing its losses each year - averaging $300,000 a year - became too great. There was also the inefficiency of Addabbo’s mental health care: in the same HRSA survey it was noted that the cost of care per mental health patient at Addabbo was $5,199 compared to $758 per patient at other New York centers.

Rather, because of Hurricane Sandy, we realize that patients have a greater need for mental health care. However, the difficulty for Addabbo was the increasingly burdensome regulatory financial hurdles. In 2012, New York State Office of Mental Health retroactively adjusted Addabbo’s mental health reimbursement rate back through 2010, resulting in a “recovery” of more than half a million dollars. With this retroactive adjustment from New York State combined with the fact that Mental Health services will soon migrate into a managed care reimbursement methodology, we believe our mental health program would only have become more difficult for Addabbo to manage and faced an unsustainable future.

There are numerous other mental health providers in our community who do a better job providing mental health care because that is their core mission. They have agreed to accept new patients. Each patient will be carefully placed with one of these providers. Not one patient will be left seeking new locations for help. No patient will be let go until they have all completed their first patient visit with their new facility. Every step of the transition will be carefully monitored and tracked by State and City agencies. The same due consideration given to all our patients will be dedicated to ensuring these transfers are made safely and securely.

The mental health component of a patient’s care will always be addressed at Addabbo. A psychiatrist and clinical social workers continue to be an integral part of Addabbo’s staff to evaluate, treat and refer to mental health agencies in the community.

In making this difficult decision, the Board has sought to ensure, in an increasingly challenging operating environment, the steady continuation of its core mission and the delivery of same high standards of quality care to the people of the Rockaways we have always provided.

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