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Home > News & Events > Online Newsletter
Online Newsletter

Registration is open NOW for the upcoming NERHRT Fall Conference!

Click here to sign up for the full three days or to register for individual days.

When: October 1-3, 2014

Where: Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center, Westford, MA

October 1: Rural Health Symposium; Combating Substance Abuse in Rural New England. Keynote speaker is Dr. Harry Chen, Secretary VT Agency of Human Services

October 2: Leadership and Networking Summit (Formerly Federal Day.) Keynoter is Christie Hager, JD, MPH, Regional Director, Region I, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. .

Day Three: Oral Health Symposium; Oral Health is Overall Health. Keynote speaker is Hugh Silk, MD, MPH, FAAFP, Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.

Call for Posters! If you and your colleagues would like to submit an idea for the popular Poster Session, please read the following instructions. Deadline for submission has been extended to August 31.

Looking to expand your organization's exposure among healthcare leaders in the region, becoming a sponsor, vendor or advertiser at the conference is a perfect opportunity! If your organization would like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please click here.

Round Table Seeking NEPI Consultant; Reply to RFP by August 22

The New England Rural Health RoundTable is soliciting proposals from qualified individuals to advise the New England Performance Improvement (NEPI) steering committee by identifying focus areas and potential projects that: are aligned with the current and future priorities of the federal Office of Rural Health Policy, will complement the current NEPI quality improvement and financial/operational improvement initiatives and ultimately foster innovation and lead the region's CAH and small rural hospitals in improving their progress in meeting the Triple Aim.

This is a contracted consulting position with a budget of $10,000. It is a one year contract with the potential for additional years.

The NEPI Network is a four-state collaborative model which is unique within the Flex program and the Network's steering committee will benefit from guidance as they assess the needs of the region and determine strategies to facilitate regional performance improvement projects.

The selected individual or organization will work under the direction of the Executive Director and the New England State Offices of Rural Health to develop recommendations of priority areas of focus as well as strategies and projects.

For complete RFP, click here.
Deadline is Aug. 22, 2014

l. Jessica Wright, McCall Foundation, and r. Mary Winar, CT Office of Rural Health, inspect the Drop Box.

Torrington, CT Unveils Drop Box for Expired, Unused Prescription Medications

As Mary Winar, Project Manager for CT Office of Rural Health, said in sharing this news, "this is a first line defense in fighting prescription drug abuse."

The permanent prescription drop box was officially opened on August 8 inside the lobby of the Torrington Police Department. The box was made possible through efforts from the: local police department, McCall Foundation, Torrington Coalition to Reduce Youth Substance Use and Litchfield County Opioid Taskforce.

(Note: the McCall Foundation, Torrington, is a private, non-profit behavioral healthcare agency providing Connecticut with a full range of alcohol and other drug prevention and treatment services.)

Good News on the Dental Front!

Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Littleton, NH

There are several exciting news stories about increased access to dental care in NH, as you will see in the following articles. In addition, in Maine, the University of New England is continuing efforts to interest high school students in dental careers.

Leading off, the Ammonoosuc Community Health Services (ACHS), Littleton, NH, has expanded its services to include dental and oral health. ACHS held an open house for their new Dental and Oral Health Center on August 13.

The building at 202 Cottage Street on the ACHS-Littleton campus is undergoing major renovations in order to accommodate its new Dental and Oral Health Center, thus helping remove barriers to care in the North Country. ACHS is developing a program to address these barriers by: increasing access to care, focusing on oral health education and offering a sliding-fee-scale for payment of services for those who qualify. An added bonus for patients is the integration of oral health into the: primary, behavioral and pharmacological services they already receive at the Health Center. (Editor's note: integration of services is a topic that will be much discussed at the RoundTable's upcoming Oral Health meeting.)

As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), ACHS says it is obligated to provide Oral Health services to its patients. For the past several years, its oral health budget has hovered around $15,000. These funds are distributed to patients in the form of $100-$500 vouchers to local dentists. While vouchers help offset emergency dental costs, they seldom meet the cost of the recommended dental procedure, and include little to no education. Most vouchers pay for extractions as remedial work (crowns, bridges, root canals are too expensive). With the new Dental and Oral Health Center, ACHS intends to move patients away from dental emergencies through oral health care prevention services, coaching, and education.

ACHS is partnering with the North Country Health Consortium's Molar Express to increase access. This partnership allows children seen through the mobile dental program to follow-up on recommendations and additional procedures at the ACHS Dental and Oral Health Center.

Renovations to the new Dental and Oral Health Center are scheduled to be completed by early fall. ACHS Board of Directors member and retired oral surgeon, Dr. Ron Spaulding, was instrumental in getting this project off the ground with a significant donation of equipment. ACHS acknowledges that Dr. Spaulding's many years of expertise and knowledge have been invaluable in guiding this initiative. Other funding resources for this project include a grant from the NH Department of Health and Human Services, town support, and generous donations from Littleton Regional Healthcare, Cottage Hospital, local businesses and individuals.

HNH Foundation's Funding Helps Expand Oral Health for Young Children Up to Age 5

Mary Parker, Dental Hygienist, examines a young patient at "Tooth Tuesday," Concord WIC Clinic.
(Photo Courtesy of Oral Health Program, NH Division of Public Health Services)

During 2013-14, funding awards from the Healthy New Hampshire (HNH) Foundation were made available to accelerate oral health services for New Hampshire's vulnerable children and families. Specifically, the HNH Foundation grant writing technical assistance resulted in a multi-year $1.2 million dollar award to further develop the New Hampshire Oral Health Program.

Nancy Martin, the Oral Health Program Manager at the NH Division of Public Health Services (and RoundTable Board member) calls 2014 the, "busiest year yet." Her goals of improving the program's capacity to provide oral health services to underserved populations and continuous quality improvement are being achieved in a variety of ways.

Among the Oral Health Program's current initiatives:

  • The second Healthy Smiles/Healthy Growth Survey, funded by the HNH Foundation, assesses changes in the oral health and height/weight status of New Hampshire third graders since the first survey was conducted in 2009.

  • The update of the New Hampshire Oral Health Plan (OHP) funded by the HNH Foundation, Northeast Delta Dental Foundation, and the Endowment for Health. This planning process, to begin in early fall, will build on the progress being made in oral health in New Hampshire, utilize current and emerging data, identify challenges and opportunities, set concrete goals and quantify resources needed to move forward.

  • The WIC/Pay for Prevention pilot project, made possible with funding from the HNH Foundation and the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust Fund of the Boston Foundation, reaches young children up to age 5 and pregnant women in: Concord, Keene and Pittsfield.
Martin says, the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Pilot program is increasing access to dental care by, "enabling us to reach out to women and children at risk for dental disease by taking dental services to where we find the people....Thanks to the HNH Foundation, we have an opportunity to determine whether this effort is cost effective and if the pilot framework can inform a statewide sustainable preventive oral health system. We recognize that grant funding is often temporary, so the question becomes: How do we create a preventive oral health care system that is sustainable over the long run and is not dependent on grant money?"

Here's how the WIC pilot program works: a team made up of a dental hygienist (under public health supervision) and a dental assistant provide both comprehensive preventive oral health services and referrals to local dental offices on a regular schedule at WIC clinics in Concord, Pittsfield, and Keene. These pilot sites were chosen based on the: size of the community, high level of need and the existing referral network of dental professionals willing to see patients up to age 5 and pregnant women.

When asked about the results of the pilot so far, Nancy reported, "our WIC pilot project is on the right track. Early oral health intervention for pregnant women and young children avoids more costly, involved treatment later on. We see the potential in WIC clinics that could be a model to move the whole system forward."

Click here to read more about HNH Foundation's work to improve oral health.

Report from NH Dental Society Shows "More to Smile about in 2014"

New Hampshire has taken some significant steps to improve: oral health through prevention, improved access and additional workforce providers, according to a report from the New Hampshire Dental Society. (NHDS).

Jim Williamson, NHDS Executive Director, said, "we analyzed changes in oral health from 2010 until now, to see if our efforts have been successful. Improvements have been made and new initiatives are underway. The Society is committed to working to find ways to get all NH residents the oral care they need."

"More to Smile About" documents improvements since the first NHDS report in 2010. You can download the full report here.

UNE 's "Dental Careers Exploration Camp" Shows High Schoolers What It's Like to be a Practicing Dentist

The University of New England (Biddeford, Maine) hosted its fourth annual Dental Careers camp from August 3 through 5 at the new Oral Center on the Portland Campus. Some 18 students in grades 8-12 took part in the three-day experiential program, where they learned about procedures such as restorations and digital X-ray, suturing, dental impressions, pouring and trimming.

A 2011 dental camp alum who said the experience was transformative in her career choice and is now attending a pre-dental college program will return to assist with this year's dental camp. And that's the goal of this program: to inspire the next generation of dental professionals who will take the place of Maine's retiring dentists. Rural areas, particularly, are expected to experience a shortage of dentists over the next 10 years.

UNE opened the first College of Dental Medicine in northern New England in the fall of 2013. Its inaugural class of 64 included 24 students from Maine, representing 100 counties and more than 20 towns. UNE has operated a dental hygiene program at its Portland campus since 1961.

Federal Judge Approves Sale of North Adams Regional Hospital to Berkshire Health Systems

On July 31, a federal judge approved the sale of the bankrupt (and now closed) North Adams (MA) Regional Hospital to Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, Ma.

It's expected that the sale, with a purchase price of $4 million, will close sometime in late August, bringing to an end the sad saga of the abrupt closing in March of North Adams' one hospital which also served adjacent communities, including Williamstown. The hospital was North Adams' largest employer. The deal is intended to preserve some services. Currently, Berkshire is operating a satellite emergency room there, which sees about 50-60 patients a day, according to Michael Leary, spokesman for Berkshire Health Systems, the medical center's parent company.

The North Adams facility has been renamed the Northern Berkshire Campus of Berkshire Medical Center. A spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents nurses who work in North Adams, said the ultimate goal is restoration of a full-service hospital to serve Northern Berkshire County.

About 150 of the laid-off workers have returned to their jobs under Berkshire's management. The health system is waiting for the results of a consultant's report from Stroudwater Associates before deciding whether to restore inpatient services.

The Berkshire Eagle has covered the North Adams story in depth: Read about the sale here.

Copley Hospital Hopes to Build New Surgical Unit

Copley Hospital, Morrisville, VT, one of the state's eight Critical Access hospitals, has filed a Certificate of Need (CON) application with the Green Mountain Care Board seeking approval to build a new surgical suite on its Morrisville campus. The proposed building will cost $12.5 million.

"Copley Hospital is one of our region's treasures: a close-to-home medical center that delivers warm, personal care and is one of the nation's top 100 Critical Access Hospitals," said Nancy Putnam, chair of the Copley Hospital Board of Trustees. "The surgical facilities are its working heart - and Copley's operating rooms were last updated in 1979."

"We've worked carefully on this project to combine quality of care with Copley's tradition of strong financial stewardship," said Mel Patashnick, president of Copley Hospital. The hospital will cover the bulk of the project with working capital and a loan. A capital campaign is underway for $3.2 million in community support.

Copley Hospital is greater Lamoille County's non-profit community hospital and one of the area's largest employers. It has been named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital for three years in a row and has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Hospitals in New England based on patient satisfaction.

Local interest in the proposed addition is given good coverage by the Stowe Reporter.

Mt. Ascutney Hospital Expands Ties with Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center (MAHHS), Windsor, VT, has expanded its affiliation with Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system, with the aim of improving efficiency and delivery of care. The enhanced affiliation, first announced in January 2014, took effect on July 1.

The new relationship allows the two providers to "partner financially," said Mt. Ascutney CEO Kevin Donovan. The community hospital in Windsor will serve as overflow capacity for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center patients who need less acute specialized care. Money from Dartmouth-Hitchcock will allow Mt. Ascutney to take more uninsured patients or people covered by government programs, Donovan said, thereby freeing up beds at the academic medical center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and allowing some patients to receive care closer to home.

According to the Mt. Ascutney press release, "The boards' approvals conclude a sixth-month regulatory and due diligence process, and finalize a partnership that will allow MAHHC and D-H to move toward a more sustainable health system for the region, assuring that patients have access to services locally and seamless care across the Connecticut River Valley."

Under the agreement, Mt. Ascutney will remain an independent nonprofit.

Reporter Morgan True provided extensive coverage of this development (and on other recent hospital affiliations) in the July 16 issue of the Vt. Digger.

Resources for Rural Rhode Island

HEALTH Equity Connections - News from HEALTH's Division of Community, Family Health, and Equity

Despite its small size and urban reputation, much of Rhode Island is rural, with a population density of 500 people per square mile or less. More than 175,000 people, or 17% of the state's population, live in rural communities. In rural communities across the country, it is typical to see fewer local healthcare providers and limited public transportation - creating barriers to accessing healthcare.

HEALTH's Office of Rural Health has developed a new brochure that details available services for individuals living in rural areas of the state. For copies of this brochure or to find out more details about rural services in your area, please contact Jill D'Errico.Her email address is:

VT New Psychiatric Hospital Nearly Filled

Vermont's new psychiatric hospital is expected to be fully staffed and to have all 25 beds available for use by August 15, according to Jeff Rothenberg, CEO of the new facility. Earlier this month, Gov. Peter Shumlin cut the ribbon on the $28.5 million facility in Berlin and all patients were transferred from the eight-bed temporary Morrisville facility the following day.

In 2011,Tropical Storm Irene damaged the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury so severely that the state decided it would be impossible to reclaim the facility.

Four hospitals across the state provide level one mental health care. VPHC has 25 beds, Brattleboro Retreat has 14, Rutland Regional Medical Center has six and Fletcher Allen Health Care has 14.

The Department of Mental Health expects to fill VPCH's beds, though in terms of funding and staffing, 80 percent occupancy is optimal, according to Jay Batra, medical director for the Department of Mental Health.There are roughly 40,000 Vermonters with some degree of mental illness, and in January the state housed 52 involuntarily committed patients.

Read the Vermont Digger story here.

An article in the Burlington Free Press has many photos of the new facility; click here to see them.


The New England Rural Health RoundTable newsletter is edited by Dot Bergin and published monthly. Please send news of your organization to her at:

The RoundTable's Executive Director is Kim Mohan. You may contact her by US mail, email. or phone:

NERHRT, P.O. Box 72, Starksboro, VT 05487



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