The Institute for Family Health (IFH), owner of the David N. Mesches, MD Health Campus at 279 Main Street in New Paltz, has announced a state capital grant of more than $1.8 million as part of the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program. The funding will be used to redevelop 3700 square feet of space on the complex’s second floor to house a 24-hour call center that will serve IFH’s entire network of healthcare facilities. A number of new jobs will be created.
“A call center already exists now in miniature on the second floor,” explained Maxine Golub, MPH, senior vice president for planning and development at IFH. “It now covers four centers. We have 31 centers.”
Five IFH facilities are in New Paltz, Kingston, Ellenville and Port Ewen. There’s one in Hyde Park in Dutchess County. The remainder are in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The network of upstate facilities, formerly affiliated as the Mid-Hudson Family Health Institute and founded by Dr. David Mesches, was acquired by IFH in 2007, according to Golub.
The existing call facility employs seven or eight people. The expanded one will be staffed by 24 patient-service representatives, registered nurses and a manager.
Local applicants will be considered for the new jobs. “To the extent that we can hire local, that would be great,” Golub told New Paltz Times. “Some of the staff will have to be bilingual in Spanish.”
Trained call-center staff will triage, address or reroute calls as appropriate, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The round-the-clock telephone service will enable many routine medical needs, such as scheduling appointments and arranging for prescription renewals, to be addressed at the caller’s convenience.
“If you forget to fill a prescription until ten o’clock at night, you can call at ten o’clock at night. It will save you, the patient, some aggravation,” Golub said. She cited the example of parents of a young child with a slight fever trying to figure out whether they have to go to the emergency room. “They can talk to a nurse,” she said. “They can patch through to a doctor if necessary. They can make an appointment for eight o’clock the next morning if the child is able to sleep through the night. Maybe they don’t have to go to the hospital.”
During normal office hours, routing non-emergency medical inquiries through the call center staff will benefit walk-in patients by reducing wait times. “The front desk staff will be less tied up with phone calls,” Golub added. “There are lots of ways that this can be advantageous to patients, who are busy people.”
Founded as a small not-for-profit organization in 1983, IFH – originally called the Institute for Urban Family Health, before its expansion into the Hudson Valley – is one of the largest community health centers in New York State, providing 593,000 visits to over 102,000 patients annually at its 31 locations. Defined as a federally qualified community health center (FQHC) network, IFH is required to “provide care to all, regardless of their ability to pay.” In order to qualify for federal funding, Golub said. “we charge on a sliding scale based on family size and income. We also offer ancillary services, such as helping people get insurance.”
There’s another organizational requirement. “We have to commit that our board of directors [are] more than 50 percent users of our health centers,” she said.
Part of a statewide system
In addition to operating health centers, the website said, IFH uses its expertise and resources to address racial and ethnic disparities in health, to advance the use of health-information technology, and to find innovative ways to improve care for diabetes, depression, women’s health, HIV and other priorities in the communities it serves. It also trains health students and professionals at all levels.
“The Institute is committed to improving the healthcare system, particularly for individuals and communities who historically have had limited access to care,” declared the website. IFH is not-for-profit.
This patient-centered, community-based approach positioned IFH to be a successful competitor for statewide funding administered by the New York State Department of Health and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. The purpose of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP) is to reduce healthcare costs and improve health outcomes by expanding access to inpatient, primary, preventive and other ambulatory care services. Program awards are also focused on projects that help ensure the financial sustainability of safety-net healthcare providers.
Having just received word of the new funding from the state last week, Golub was unable to project a ribbon-cutting date for the expanded facility. “We have to have the contract in our hand before we start expending money,” she explained. “We are currently in the process of interviewing architects [and] design firms, so [there’s] no timeline as yet.”
The second-floor space into which the call center will be expanding was previously vacant. No current tenants will be displaced.