5/2/14: Poloncarz Cuts Ribbon on New Erie County Health Mall

Modified: January 23, 2015 2:58pm

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Poloncarz, Agency Chiefs Celebrate Opening of Expanded Clinic at former Matt Gajewski Site

Reduced Costs, Better Outcomes Anticipated as Primary Health Care Services Return to Underserved Community 

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by President and CEO of Catholic Health Joe McDonald, Dean of the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine Dr. Michael Glick, President of Lake Shore Behavioral Health Dr. Howard K. Hitzel, Psy.D.,  and Executive Director of Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services Elizabeth Mauro to cut the ribbon and officially open the Erie County Health Mall, located at 1500 Broadway in Buffalo, site of the former Dr. Matt Gajewski Health Services Center. A unique public-private collaboration, the Health Mall is the first of its kind in Western New York to bring together primary, dental and mental health care under one roof. Additionally, it is the only provider of primary care in the 14212 zip code. The Mall is expected to reduce the number of costly emergency department visits by more than 3,400 in its first year of operation as expanded primary care options decrease the need for unnecessary emergency department visits.

Open to all Erie County residents regardless of where they reside, the Erie County Health Mall will offer an array of services focused on providing primary and chronic disease care in order to better manage patients’ conditions before they lead to hospitalization. The Mall will utilize an “Inter-Professional” health model, which offers comprehensive health services to patients by multiple health providers working collaboratively to deliver quality care within and across settings.  The goal of this model is increased patient satisfaction with the healthcare system (due to ease in navigation) along with improved health outcomes and reduced costs to the system. 

Catholic Health will provide adult primary care and internal medicine services, OB/GYN and prenatal care services and physical therapy at the Mall along with operating an NCQA Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home and on-site laboratory service center. The U.B. School of Dental Medicine will operate a student-run dental clinic with “urgent care”-style services, Lake Shore Behavioral Health will offer Adult Behavioral Health Services, and Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services will provide Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Services. Each agency is expecting to be fully operational at the Mall in June, with Lake Shore Behavioral Health’s facility open now.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “The opening of the Erie County Health Mall represents a change in how primary care services are delivered and also demonstrates the necessary commitment of dedicated partners to making that change possible. The services offered at 1500 Broadway will assist patients in managing their conditions and improving health outcomes while cutting down on the expensive and unnecessary emergency room visits that often resulted prior to the Mall’s opening. Most importantly, the Mall will provide health care options to a community that had been sorely lacking them since clinics were closed by the prior administration. I want to thank our partners in this initiative, who understand the need to be proactive in improving community health outcomes and who worked closely with us to reach this point. This first-of its-kind health care collaboration will grow into a model for delivery of services in years to come.”

Through a $2.6 million capital project investment, the Erie County Department of Public Works oversaw a complete renovation of the space at 1500 Broadway, including the installation of new electrical and climate systems, leading to the Erie County Health Mall’s LEED Silver-certifiable designation.

The need for services in the area surrounding the Mall is underscored by the fact that this zip code has the highest number of births with late or no prenatal care along with the second-highest percent of births to Medicaid or self-pay patients. To address this, Catholic Health’s St. Vincent Health Center will relocate from 1595 Bailey Avenue into an expanded space at the Health Mall, with 20 exam rooms to offer primary care, OB/GYN and prenatal care services. A Catholic Health Laboratory Services Center will be located on the first floor of the Mall for routine blood draws and specimen collections.  St. Vincent Health Center offers a team-based approach to care that includes physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, counselors, case managers, and health educators. Operated by Sisters of Charity Hospital, the center currently serves more than 14,000 patients annually, including many who are economically disadvantaged. With the new and expanded space at the Erie County Health Mall, St. Vincent’s will be able to serve more than 20,000 patients each year at the new location.

“Catholic Health is proud to take part in this collaborative effort with the County, the University at Buffalo, and Lake Shore and Mid-Erie Behavioral Health Services. Consistent with our mission to reach-out to the underserved and those in need, we are coming together with our partners in this facility to improve access to quality healthcare. We are expanding care for the community by including OB/GYN, prenatal care, physical therapy, and outpatient lab services as well as continuing to provide leading primary care services through our NCQA level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home,” said Joe McDonald, President and CEO for Catholic Health.

Research from the Office of the Erie County Inspector General has shown a steady increase in the number of visits to ECMC for dental emergencies, reaching over 700 in 2013, since the Dental Clinic at the former Dr. Matt Gajewski site was closed in 2009. The number of these costly emergency room visits could decrease dramatically as dental patients receive primary care in a proper dental clinic, rather than the “last resort” setting of an emergency room. The Erie County Health Mall features the UB Dental, First Care dental clinic, an extension of the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine. The student-run Center includes six chairs and provides comprehensive dental care for pediatric and adult patients.  

Dean of the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine Dr. Michael Glick said, “UB Dental is excited to expand its services to the Erie County Health Mall. The inter-professional model of care will result in enhanced patient satisfaction, and improved health outcomes while increasing dental student awareness of urban health issues.” 

Poloncarz added, “Since 2009, this community has been without basic healthcare services such as the ones our partners are bringing to the table, and the cost to all of Erie County’s residents has been tremendous. While other communities take such services for granted, their re-introduction here will have a profound positive impact and will serve as a learning model for a new public health system of delivery. While I have had many achievements during my tenure as County Executive, if this opening of the Health Mall was my only accomplishment I would still feel that my tenure as County Executive was a success.”

A key component of the Erie County Health Mall is the inclusion of behavioral health services for adolescents and adults, offering counseling, behavioral health and intervention services. One in four adults is living with a diagnosable mental health condition, and despite the fact that virtually all mental health conditions are treatable only 20% of people seek professional assistance. Additionally, mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization ion the U.S. for adults age 18-44. The Mall’s unique collaborative model brings two behavioral health providers to 1500 Broadway, providing a continuum of care for patients of all ages.

“Lake Shore Behavioral Health is very pleased to be part of the Erie County Health Mall and looks forward to collaborating with our healthcare partners in offering high quality, integrated services to this underserved community.  An important goal of the Mall is to provide easy access to care and Lake Shore will be offering ‘same day’ appointments at its mental health clinic,” said Lake Shore Behavioral Health President Dr. Howard K. Hitzel. “So often, mental health disorders go undiagnosed and untreated and therefore have a deleterious effect on both an individual’s overall health and their quality of life.  Often people with mental health problems fail to receive regular medical or dental care. The Mall will offer people a holistic approach to healthcare that will result in better overall health outcomes for patients.” 

Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services Executive Director Elizabeth Mauro added, “Integrating behavioral health into the Health Mall is a key component of this community based collaborative. Study after study shows that mental health issues impact physical health in a variety of ways. They do not preclude each other but must be addressed holistically.  In fact, mental illness is a critical social determinant of health. The National Institute of Mental Health has studies that show Americans with a major mental illness die 14-32 years earlier than the general population. By intervening early and effectively we can make a difference here. Mid-Erie is proud to be a part of this visionary initiative, serving the children, adolescents and families of our community.”

The long-term impacts of the Erie County Health Mall’s services will also be a focus of attention. Erie County and each Mall partner are teaming up with the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health to conduct long-term studies of the health outcomes and health care utilization of patients who visit the Health Mall.  This information will assist all partners in better responding to the needs of the community and will also provide critical perspectives into the efficacy of services provided at the Health Mall.

For more information:

On the Erie County Health Mall, visit http://www.erie.gov/healthmall

On Catholic Health, visit  http://www.chsbuffalo.org/

On the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, visit  http://dental.buffalo.edu/

On Lake Shore Behavioral Health, visit  http://lake-shore.org/

On Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services, visit  http://www.mid-erie.org/