Four Collaboratives Urge N.J. to Certify Them as State’s First Regional Health Hubs

June 2, 2019
Trenton, Camden, Newark and Paterson began work in 2011 under the state’s Medicaid ACO Demonstration Project

The state of New Jersey spends almost one-sixth of its budget, more than $5 billion, on its Medicaid population. To address the paradox of high costs and poor outcomes, the cities of Trenton, Camden, Newark, and Paterson began work in 2011 under the state’s Medicaid ACO Demonstration Project. Now those regions are asking the state to take the next step and certify them as Regional Health Hubs.

In an essay on the the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers website, its CEO Kathleen Noonan and Jon Tew, senior program manager for policy and advocacy, outlined the case for recognizing the hubs.

All four regions have taken a more holistic approach to care by making robust connections to social services and community resources, they note. Projects that began in the ACO Demonstration Project have evolved into four regional collaboratives that integrate, coordinate and align all the disconnected programs aimed at making communities healthier. 

State support for such local, community-based innovation has been critical, Noonan and Tew stress. “The initiation of the ACO Demonstration Project showed that its state-level champions are interested in innovative ways to improve care and reduce costs. The project was a clear success in that regard, generating important lessons and, most notably, showing a need for a neutral convener backed by cross-sector data to align the extraordinary energy in a community for the benefit of its residents.” 

Now that the three-year Demonstration Project is wrapping up its first one-year extension, they are calling on the state to incorporate its successes more permanently into the health infrastructure of New Jersey.

They envision Regional Health Hubs as nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving healthcare delivery and health outcomes by working in close concert with consumers and stakeholders in the region. In his proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, Gov. Phil Murphy allocated $1.5 million to maintain the current Medicaid ACO structure. The Camden Coalition, along with the other three regional collaboratives Healthy Greater Newark, Health Coalition of Passaic County and Trenton Health Team — are urging the state to certify them as the first Regional Health Hubs in New Jersey.

“Because New Jersey must respond to the ever-changing needs of its population, the state will be well-served in establishing the Hubs as a reliable mechanism that responds proactively to community and state needs,” they wrote. They describe five core functions:

1.   Operate or utilize a regional Health Information Exchange (HIE). 

2.    Convene multi-sector partners around the region and facilitate priority initiatives. 

3.    Facilitate care coordination for high-need populations. 

4.    Operate as a clinical redesign specialist for providers, payers, and the state. 

5.    Serve as a local expert and conduit for state priorities. 

Noonan and Tew note that over the past year alone, the organizations have worked with their partners to address inequities in maternal health outcomes, access to cancer screening and treatment, challenges in access to healthy food, connections between healthcare and the faith community, youth tobacco use prevention, school attendance, improvements to the built environment, and more. “Our Regional Health Hub model allows the state to strengthen and expand upon what we believe is a national model for state and local partnership to improve health outcomes.”