In February 2022, the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC), an independent commission within the Maryland Department of Health, will distribute $13 million to entities in the Pathways for Health Equity Program (Pathway Program), which lays the foundation for addressing disparities in Health Equity Resource Communities (HERCs).
A HERC is a small geographic area with poor health outcomes that consists of at least 5,000 residents and where racial, ethnic and disability-related disparities have a large impact on the overall health of the area.
HERCs build conceptually on a prior initiative that identified Health Enterprise Zones (Zones) in five areas where residents had little access to health care. Concentrating resources and services on these areas had a major impact, including one provider, Johns Hopkins, reporting a decrease in 18,000 inpatient stays and more than $100 million in health care savings because of the Zone pilot.
The success of that pilot prompted new Maryland legislation in 2021 that authorized the CHRC to launch the HERC program. In fact, proposals benefiting areas previously identified as Zones are given “special consideration" in the Pathway Program.
Nonprofits, hospitals, higher education institutions, federally qualified health centers and local government agencies had until December 7, 2021, to apply to the Pathway Program, and were encouraged to present proposals addressing diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, maternal-infant mortality and substance abuse disorders.
While the CHRC identified those issues as particular priorities for funding, applicants were free to address other problems that data indicated could be tackled with targeted interventions.
The CHRC announced that it was looking for applicants who received community buy-in, and whose proposals could not only improve outcomes and reduce disparities, but also improve access to primary care, promote preventative services, and ultimately reduce health care costs and hospital admission and re-admissions.
The Pathway Program will provide funding for a two-year period allowing applicants to collect data and demonstrate the efficacy of their proposals in practice. At the conclusion of the two-year pilot window, successful applicants will be encouraged to apply for HERC designation and additional grant funding.
Alexandria K. Montanio
410-576-4278 • email@example.com