ATHENS — Buckeye Health Plan (Buckeye) will award Ohio University $750,000 to expand the University’s regional community health programming and give southeast Ohio residents greater access to healthcare.
In addition, Buckeye and the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine will partner with the Weitzman Institute to launch Project ECHO®. This new program connects local healthcare providers to medical specialists to bring their expertise and services to the region’s rural and underserved communities. This collaboration, which will include training, consultation and analysis, is valued at an additional $750,000.
“Appalachian and rural counties are traditionally underserved and are home to many patients with chronic disease and multiple health issues,” said Beth Longenecker, D.O., dean of the Heritage College at its Athens campus. “Ohio University is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those in southeast Ohio. Buckeye Health Plan’s commitment and partnership are invaluable to achieving this shared goal.”
Buckeye’s investment will improve health outcomes by strengthening and expanding the medical school’s Community Health Programs, which have provided healthcare resources in southeast Ohio for more than 25 years and patient navigation services since 2012.
“Because the needs of each community we serve are unique, Buckeye works hard to identify local partners and proven-effective resources that can improve health outcomes in each area of the state,” said Erik Helms, Buckeye chief performance officer. “This partnership is a great example of Buckeye’s commitment to find and implement local solutions.”
The funding supports the expansion of Heritage College patient navigator programs into three additional counties — Meigs, Washington, and Vinton. Registered nurse navigators will leverage Buckeye and Project ECHO® resources to provide short-term care and options for patients, including efforts to reduce social determinant driven barriers to care, education and support. Medical school navigators have improved patient health outcomes, such as decreasing the number of preterm births, by connecting patients with local and regional services.
“The Weitzman Institute looks forward to partnering with Buckeye and Ohio University. The ECHO® program will help providers in southeastern Ohio provide high-quality care to their most vulnerable patients with challenging medical and behavioral health needs,” said Agi Erickson, Weitzman Institute director of business and partnership development.
Information provided by Ohio University.