Business News

Lamprey Health Care Clinics Serve the Community
By Leslie O’Donnell   10-20-17

Established during the War on Poverty and Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, community health care centers across the United States continue today to deliver health care to medically underserved and low-income areas – including Raymond.

The non-profit Lamprey Health Care, Inc., with clinics in Raymond, Newmarket and Nashua, operates under that community health care center umbrella, with a mission “to provide high quality medical care and health-related services, with an emphasis on prevention and lifestyle management, to all individuals regardless of ability to pay.”

All three locations received Level III Patient Medical Home recognition through the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Level III is the highest ranking and encompasses health centers that demonstrate the use of evidence-based patient-centered processes focusing on coordinating care and establishing strong provider-patient relationships.

That translates to medical offices that include the usual primary care treatment services, and quite a bit more. Michelle Gaudet, communications and marketing manager for Lamprey Health Care, noted that offerings at the Raymond clinic range from a school-based dental program to senior transportation to behavioral (mental) health, along with the usual primary care medical services for all ages. Nutrition education and child development screenings are also among the offerings, as are diabetes education, breastfeeding basics, and parenting classes. And a free Bone Builders exercise class for ages 55 and up is offered in conjunction with the Friends Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Lamprey Health Center opened in Newmarket in 1971, amidst concerns by residents over the lack of local health care. A community group founded Lamprey and obtained federal funding, in line with the national program’s goal of providing access to health care in poor or rural areas. Starting with one doctor, one nurse and a part-time support staffer, the clinic opened above a bartending school.

As the Newmarket clinic grew, organizers started looking at other medically underserved areas of Rockingham County. “It was difficult for residents to access health care before the current Highway 101 opened, and we were able to get federal funding to build the facility in Raymond in 1985,” Gaudet said. That clinic has grown through the years, expanded in 1995, and now has nine doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants on staff.

Every few years, the Lamprey clinics conduct a needs assessment, and new services are often the result. One such new offering is a behavioral health program.

“Our program is right in the health center – if a doctor meets with a patient as part of their regular visit and identifies that person as in need of talking to someone, they can walk them over to our counselor right on site, and they can talk right there as part of their appointment,” she said, adding that such a practice can build trust and rapport. “That helps the patient feel there’s no stigma.

“Our behavioral health program tries to deal with people who fall through the cracks,” she added. “Sometimes all we are is a bridge. Behavioral health can see patients for say, six weeks – we’ll see them until there’s an opening at the Center for Life Management in Derry, for example. Our goal is to try to avoid people having to go to the emergency room to wait for mental health care.”

Community health centers throughout the U.S. have two main sources of federal funding – a base discretionary appropriation of $1.5 billion, which has remained stable since at least 2011, Gaudet said, and the Affordable Care Act’s health center funding of $3.6 billion nationally.

The discretionary appropriation is part of the federal budget and comes under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, specifically to help serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. “That money goes into our sliding fee program,” Gaudet said. “It helps us offset the discounted fees we provide on a sliding scale, under federal guidelines.”

Total federal funding for community health centers stands at $5.1 billion, with $3.6 billion of that sum coming from the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) that expired Sept. 30, 2017. A bipartisan bill before Congress would continue the funding for five years.
“We are optimistic about the CHIME (Community Health Investment, Modernization and Excellence) Act of 2017,” Gaudet said. “It currently has 70 cosponsors. This is a really great program, and people may not realize what a gem they have in their community. We’re here to make sure everybody has a doctor and can get health care, and we keep people working and out of the emergency room at a lower cost.”

Additionally, approving the CHIME Act would restore funding to CHIP – the Children’s Health Insurance Program – whose funding also expired Sept. 30.

“As of Oct. 1, that $3.6 billion is underfunded, and that would mean a 70 percent cut in funding to health centers all across the U.S.,” Gaudet explained.

“That has not yet impacted Lamprey,” she said. “Our renewal funding ends in May. But there will come a point that, if there’s no federal action taken on funding CHIP, it would cost Lamprey $2 million, and that would mean reduced services.”

State funding goes to Lamprey Health via specific contracts, for example with the clinic’s school-based dental program, in which a dental hygienist visits local schools, including Raymond’s Lamprey River Elementary School and Iber Holmes Gove Middle School.

Gaudet said the Raymond clinic is in the process of expanding its dental program by adding a one-day-per-month schedule where pediatric patients without access to a dentist can receive evaluations and sealants.

“There’s such a need for dental care in the community,” Gaudet said. “We’d love to have a full-time dentist, but we don’t have funding for it.”

Also contributing to Lamprey Health financially are the towns it serves. Raymond voters approved sending $6,500 to Lamprey Health Care in 2017, as part of the Town’s funding of social service agencies.

That money goes to Lamprey’s Senior Transportation program, which is available free to anyone – Lamprey patient or not – over age 60 or disabled. The van is wheelchair accessible, and those using the service are invited to make a donation, but are not required to do so.

In addition to its usual routes, which include grocery and medical office stops, special routes are scheduled on election days; for grocery visits, the driver helps carry the bags into the house. And once a month, the riders select a place to go – perhaps to the Seacoast or for lunch and a movie. “That gives people a chance to socialize, to get out of the house and not be stuck with no one to talk to,” Gaudet said.

“Our mission is to help people regardless of their ability to pay, and we want people to be healthy – and a powerful component of that is to keep people active in their community and to be with other people,” Gaudet said.

Services such as transportation used to be called “ancillary” but Gaudet said that erroneously makes them sound as if they are less important. To the contrary, “we see the value of making sure people can spend time with their friends – that translates into impacting health in a positive way,” she said.

While the federal funding is geared to bring in low-income patients, Gaudet emphasized that the clinics have a high number of people with medical insurance. At least 35 percent of all Lamprey patients have some type of private insurance; 23 percent receive Medicaid and 14 percent receive Medicare, thus bringing the total number of patients with some kind of insurance to more than 70 percent.

This year Lamprey Health launched a nurse practitioner fellowship program, to provide advanced training for nurse practitioners new to the field. The fellows work for a year under the guidance of a senior doctor, and Gaudet said hopefully those completing the program will stay in the community.

The Lamprey Health clinic in Raymond is also home to the Seacoast Public Health Network, which Lamprey serves as fiscal agent. Serving one of the state’s public health regions, Seacoast coordinates efforts during disease outbreaks, does grassroots education, and is now working with Narcan distribution for the opioid epidemic.

“They’re their own agency, but there’s a benefit to having them in Raymond,” Gaudet said. “They’re able to work closely with the Raymond Coalition for Youth, and are a hidden gem here.

Lamprey’s Raymond clinic, at 128 Route 27, is open daily. More information is available at 895-3351 or Reach the Newmarket clinic at 659-3106. The clinics always accept new patients.

Lamprey Health Care - A Health Care Center that provides Health Care Services To All Individuals

Lamprey Health Care is a non-profit community health center that provides health care services to individuals of all ages regardless of ability to pay. Services include primary care for all ages, prenatal and obstetrical care, nutrition counseling, integrated behavioral health services, chronic disease care management and health educational programs.

We offer on-site lab services, radiology, including x-ray and mammography, and physical and occupational therapy. Additional services offered include care coordination, medication assistance program, school based preventative dental care, and senior transportation.

Lamprey Health Care has three locations:

        125 Route 27, Raymond
        (603) 895-3351
        Hours: Mon - Thurs: 8 am to 7 pm, Fri: 8 am - 5 pm, Sat: 9 am -12 pm, Sun: 9 am - 4 pm

        22 Prospect Street, Nashua
        (603) 883-1626
        Hours: Mon - Thurs: 8 am to 7 pm, Fri: 8 am - 5 pm, Sat: 9 am -12 pm

        207 S. Main Street, New Market
        (603) 659-3106
        Hours: Mon - Thurs: 8 am to 7 pm, Fri: 8 am - 5 pm, Sat: 9 am -12 pm   

Visit our website at Lamprey Health Care for more information..     

Like Us on Facebook at Lamprey Health Care facebook page .