Health department transitioning out of primary care services for children

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PITTSBORO — Beginning July 1, the Chatham County Public Health Department will no longer be a primary care provider (medical home) for children.

This change, which was approved by the Chatham County Board of Health at its May 24th meeting, comes as the department continues to partner with other Chatham-based healthcare providers to align services and address gaps.

The transition of primary care services for children applies specifically to well-child visits, such as school and sports physicals and annual check-ups, and sick care visits. The public health department will continue to offer and work to expand many services for children, including immunizations, individual and group nutrition services, preventive dental care, lead and sickle cell testing, Healthy Homes visits, and newborn home visits.

“This transition has been under consideration for the past few years as we have worked with the local healthcare community to build a coordinated system of care for residents,” said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. “There are several high-quality primary care options for children that offer comprehensive services for Chatham’s youth, including Medicaid beneficiaries and those without health insurance. At the same time, there are important non-primary care services for children, such as nutrition counseling and newborn home visits, that our healthcare system partners have encouraged us to expand. This partnership is at the heart of the transition, and we look forward to growing these services in the months and years ahead.”

In anticipation of a potential transition, CCPHD stopped accepting new child health primary care clients in April 2020, though the official transition was delayed as the public health and healthcare systems responded to COVID-19. The department has worked closely with several local providers, including Piedmont Health Services, to help clients transition their care and notified clients in early May that this change was under consideration. Letters are being mailed to all active clients this week to let them know that this change will take effect July 1st and to share information and contacts for other providers to help them select a new medical home.

In deciding to move forward with this transition from child health primary care to community-based and population health services, CCPHD also took into consideration that Medicaid in North Carolina will shift to a managed care system July 1st. This change, known as Medicaid Transformation, includes additional requirements for primary care providers. Many local health departments across the state have already transitioned out of primary care services to grow their focus on public health services. This includes CCPHD, which divested adult health primary care services in 2017 and expanded public health communications and epidemiology programs.

“Despite our shift from primary care services for children, we will continue to provide important services to Chatham’s younger residents,” added Zelek. “As a public health department, we have a responsibility to coordinate our efforts with other local resources, assure quality care is available, and address gaps in services. This change better positions us to meet these responsibilities, and we remain committed to our vision of a fair and inclusive Chatham County where all residents achieve their best physical, mental and emotional health and feel a sense of belonging.”

CCPHD will continue to provide limited clinical services until July 1, 2021 as it supports clients in selecting a new medical home and transferring their medical records. CCPHD asks that any clients with questions about these changes please call the CCPHD clinic at 919-742-5641.

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