Health Care for All

Eliza Lake, Executive Director of Hilltown Community Health Center, accepts the key to HCHC’s new space in the Bangs Community Center from Julie Federman, Director of the Amherst Health Department

Hilltown Community Health Center reached a milestone on its path to opening its new community health center, the John P. Musante Health Center, in Amherst’s Bangs Community Center when it received the keys to its new space on March 31st.  Renovation of the space will began this summer, with an opening date for the health center expected in early 2017.

Who will benefit from the new health center when it opens?  As a federally qualified health center, whose mission is to provide health care to everyone regardless of their ability to pay, here are profiles of some of the people the John P. Musante Health Center is designed to serve:

“Jean” works in a local restaurant for an hourly wage. She registered for MassHealth two years ago. She knew she was in need of a gynecological visit but her long work hours make it difficult for her make traditional medical office hours. Leaving work in the middle of the day means that she loses income and potentially her job. In addition, the medical copays would further tighten her already seriously limited budget.           

The John P. Musante Health Center will strive to offer more flexible hours that respond to client needs and will not turn anyone away for lack of insurance or ability to pay out of pocket.

“Juan” regularly visits the Amherst Survival Center (ASC). A staff member greeted him over lunch and recognized that he was jaundiced. He met with the ASC clinic doctor who diagnosed him with hepatitis.  Juan has no doctor whom he regularly sees so the ASC clinic staff tried to refer Juan but could not find a local medical practice which could see Juan within the month. Their best option was to refer him to Holyoke Health Center. Juan made it to his first appointment in Holyoke but the challenge of transportation became too much and he regularly missed appointments throughout the next 6 months, causing his health to deteriorate.

The John P. Musante Health Center’s convenient downtown Amherst location will remove this obstacle for Juan and enable him to receive ongoing preventative primary and dental care for chronic as well as acute conditions.

“George” is an adult who lives in Amherst and has MassHealth. He has been having pain in his molar for months, and when he calls local dentists, they tell him that because MassHealth will not pay for fillings in molars, they would have to pull the tooth.  He wants to keep his teeth, so he borrowed a car from a friend to drive an hour to Hilltown Community Health Centers’ Worthington Health Center, where the dentist filled his tooth.

Located in downtown Amherst, the John P. Musante Health Center would have been much more convenient for George and would have allowed him to have his tooth attended to sooner. It would also allow him to have more frequent dental checkups.

A recent immigrant, “Laila” was intimidated by the American health care system and avoided medical offices and hospitals out of fear and confusion. But she knew that her children needed to be immunized and so they visited the Town of Amherst’s walk-in free vaccine clinic. During that visit she spoke to a health provider about a skin irritation on her stomach which had worsened. A quick exam showed the provider that it was cellulitus which would require immediate antibiotics. The Town provider explained to Laila the seriousness of her condition and urged her to visit the hospital.

The John P. Musante Health Center will be a culturally sensitive medical home where individuals and families who might otherwise not seek ongoing care can develop trusting relationships with medical and dental providers.

“Wally” is a senior citizen who has diabetes, but hasn’t been able to control it.  He has tried to limit his sugar and get more exercise, but he has struggled to stick to his plan, especially given his limited income and the cost of healthy food.

The John P. Musante Health Center team will include a Community Health Worker who can support Wally and help him manage the risk which diabetes poses to Wally’s overall health. In addition to helping him register for SNAP food benefits and assisting him in creating a realistic exercise plan, the Community Health Worker will connect him to an affordable nutritionist, optometrist and dental care at Musante Health Center.

“Mary” is an adult who lives in Belchertown who has not seen a dentist in 20 years because she has not had dental insurance, and cannot afford to pay for the extensive dental care she knows she needs.  She hears from a friend that if she goes to a community health center, she can get help signing up for dental insurance. 

The John P. Musante Health Center will provide Mary with immediate dental care so that she does not lose all of her teeth. Staff will help her register for any available insurance coverage, help her determine what non-covered costs she can afford to pay and create a payment plan to cover those costs.

To donate to the Hilltown Community Health Center, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 15256 on your paper pledge form.