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Innovative health partnership improves access to integrated care

In March of 2019, the Polk County Commissioners voted to withdraw from the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District (RPM) and establish public health services under the Polk County Consolidated Human Services Agency. As part of this new approach to services in Polk County, the Polk County Consolidated Human Services Agency will assure many of the clinical services previously performed by RPM through Blue Ridge Health (BRH). 

BRH – Polk opened in Columbus in 2015. Like all BRH practices provides comprehensive, integrated care including family medicine, pediatric and pregnancy care, counseling and psychiatry. Since opening in the county, services and provider staffing have expanded. In 2018, BRH took over Collins Dental Center from RPM in an effort to maintain access to critical dental services for county residents. BRH also opened a School-Based Health Center at Polk County Middle School in 2019 to provide behavioral health services in the school.

The new approach to public health will allow both agencies to focus on their core strengths. Health Department staff will focus on connecting community partners and promoting healthy choices in order to improve health outcomes. BRH will expand the pursuit of its mission to provide quality, healthcare that is accessible and affordable for all.

“This innovative approach to service delivery allows patients access to a broader array of services, better integration of care, and most importantly it keeps care local to Polk County,” said Joshua Kennedy, Director of the Polk County Health & Human Services Agency. “Our staff will maintain responsibility for data collection, health promotion, and convening partners to reduce barriers and gaps in health care. Co-locating services will further increase collaboration to improve health outcomes for all residents of Polk County.”

With the exception of environmental health, non-clinical services such as vital records, health promotion, communicable disease reports, WIC, preparedness, and data collection will still be performed by health department employees in their current offices.  

The current target is to complete the transition by August 6, 2019. BRH is moving its current practice in Columbus around the corner to the existing Health Department space on Walker Street where renovations are taking place to make the space more conducive to BRH in the long-run. 

“Blue Ridge Health has been on the forefront of innovative solutions for care since its founding in 1963. We have experienced significant growth because the model of care we provide is efficient and effective at making people healthier.” said Dr. Amy Marietta, Medical Director for BRH – Polk, “As an organization, top to bottom, we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to be healthy. We strive each day to provide the highest level of care, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. This collaboration further cements both agencies’ shared commitment to improve the lives of those we serve.”

Health Department patients hoping to transition care to BRH will be able to transfer their medical records prior to their first visit with BRH by reaching out to the Foothills Health District. Those who are unable to coordinate the record transfer prior to their first visit can still be seen. For those without insurance, services are provided on a sliding scale based on income and household services.  At all BRH practices, appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome and language support is available for those who need it. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment today, call 828-894-2222 or visit brchs.com.

Submitted by Steve Wong