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Chestnut, OSF Get State Grant To Lower Health Care Barriers

Mike Miletich
New state money to lower barriers to health care for people on Medicaid will bolster Chestnut Health Systems' offerings and allow a dental clinic to open.

Central Illinois health providers will receive a $5 million chunk of $18 million in new state money to transform health care for people on Medicaid and other under served populations. It's part of the so-called Illinois Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives.

Joan Hartman is the vice president of strategy and public policy for Bloomington-based Chestnut Health Systems. Hartman said Chestnut will add access to OSF telehealth services as part of the five-year state grant that will use technology to remove barriers to care.

Hartman also said the program will help Chestnut open a dental clinic next year and hire a dental manager, two dental assistants, two hygienists, and a dentist. Eventually, the program will serve more than 2,500 people per year, but not at first.

"Because they haven't had access to good dental care in the past, they have untreated dental issues that will take some time to be able to treat," said Hartman, adding access to telehealth for Chestnut clients will improve care and outcomes.

"Which gives our patients ... access to behavioral health assistance after hours. And it also then gives us the ability to work with patients with chronic health conditions to be able to use some patient care monitoring devices," she said.

Hartman said those devices can help stabilize people with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Often, people on Medicaid cannot afford to be as digitally connected as the average Illinois resident. This makes electronic health monitors and telehealth access more problematic.

“Part of what we and OSF built into the project is the ability for the patients to access Wi-Fi and telehealth and patient monitoring systems that electronically feed information to their care providers. We are also assisting them by giving them the machines and the tools they need, whether it’s a table to enter health information or a community health worker who goes to a home and walks them through how to do all these pieces,” said Hartman.

Chestnut now serves about 2,500 people on Medicaid. Hartman said the state funding will increase that number by 20%, in addition to improving service for those already on the rolls.

The grant also will allow Chestnut to hire six community health workers over the five-year grant term and bolster wellness programs like Chestnut’s teaching kitchen that runs classes on nutrition and healthy cooking. And, she said Chestnut will work with Bloomington's Home Sweet Home ministries to provide a "food pharmacy" that focuses on nutrition.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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