Community Health Plans

For Community Health Programs (CHP), serving the health care needs of those in Berkshire County was difficult in its former cramped space. The health center had eight sites, with its main location on the fourth floor of Fairview Hospital. Its 2,500 square feet of space made it hard to accommodate all its patient needs.

But a stimulus grant changed all that.

CHP received $463K in stimulus funds for capital improvements as well as $184K to increase its health services. The health center had purchased a new site in June of 2009. The stimulus funds were awarded the following March and enabled the center to proceed with its renovations as well as hire additional support staff.

“We had plans drawn up and we didn’t know how we were going to do it and then stimulus came along,” said Philip Morrison, the chief financial officer of CHP.

According to Brian Ayars, director of CHP, “The expansion changed our ability to serve and it changed our image in the community.”

The funding enabled CHP to consolidate its sites to three and more than double its number of patient rooms and increase its foot print to 7,000 square feet. The health center now includes four physician’s offices and its own lab. “Our staff morale went up tremendously,” noted Ayars. “It was horrendous before. Now we have a brand new site.”

CHP was founded in 1975 as a health center for children. In 1995, the center expanded its services to include adults. Currently, the

Community Health Plans

 center has approximately 200 new patients a month. About 40 percent of its patients are on MassHealth and 12 percent are uninsured. Last year the center had 50,000 patient visits.

But Ayars expects those numbers to increase as the economy continues to struggle. The center has experienced 300 percent growth over the past four years. “Many of those people were not getting health care,” said Ayars. “At best, they were getting episodic care. Underneath the canopy of beauty in the Berkshires, there are a lot of people struggling.”

Morrison agrees. “CHP was struggling for a decade on how to expand,” he said. “The stimulus funds let us do that.”