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Help slated for chronic health issues

Baltimore Medical System will receive a $498,906 grant Monday for a program that will allow patients with chronic health conditions and behavioral health needs to receive comprehensive care.

Jay Wolvovsky

The grant comes from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and is part of an $8.5 million initiative by the not-for-profit health care company that serves Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

“We are responsible for trying to increase health care access and affordability,” said Michael Sullivan, spokesman for CareFirst. “This is one of the ways that we do it for people who don’t have insurance.”

Announced in February, the Safety Net Health Center Initiative provides money to medical organizations that serve the uninsured, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, the homeless, the poor, and immigrant and minority populations. A total of 12 grants for two or three-year implementation were awarded through the initiative.

Baltimore Medical System’s two-year grant will allow the company to hire two licensed clinical social workers who will oversee the needs of patients, said Jay Wolvovsky, president and CEO of Baltimore Medical System.

The organization chose to apply for a two-year grant to more aggressively kick-start the program, he added.

“What [our patients] really need is someone who sits there and works with them, works through the real-life issues they have … and gives them some encouragement, and checks back with them from time to time to see how it’s going,” he said.

“After the patient leaves the exam room they’re given a whole list of instructions by the health care provider but not necessarily the means to carry it out in their real-world setting,” he said.

The program aims to provide patients with such means and fits with CareFirst’s Patient-Centered Medical Home program that was launched in January 2011. That program also aims to lower health care costs by fostering collaboration between physicians.

“If we can prove that this brand of medicine basically reduces costs down the line … then we’re hoping that that’s a selling point to not only CareFirst, but lots of other insurance companies,” Wolvovsky said.

A community health center, Baltimore Medical System was founded in 1984 and operates six locations in the city and eight school-based locations in Baltimore County. The organization serves approximately 45,000 people annually.

CareFirst’s senior vice president of public policy and community affairs, Maria Harris Tildon, is slated to present the check at a 5:30 p.m. event at the Baltimore Medical System health center at 3700 Fleet St. in Highlandtown.