SVT Health & Wellness providesbroad range of services to receive FQHC designation

Issues around health-care delivery, cost and quality are frequent topics of discussion in our community, yet many people living in the area may not be aware that SVT Health & Wellness is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), or know what this designation means.

FQHCs exist to provide high quality comprehensive health care to the medically underserved, such as the poor and uninsured. To be designated as a FQHC, clinics must provide a broad range of essential health services, and must comply with 19 distinct federal program requirements. These requirements relate to clinical practices, quality of care, staffing, data reporting, financial management and governance, among others. Our required services include general primary medical care, diagnostic and screening services, family planning, immunizations, preventive dental, pharmacy and much more.

Community Health Centers exist all around the United States. In Alaska, 29 FQHCs provide essential health care services to more than 100,000 patients through 175 delivery sites. On the Kenai Peninsula, SVT Health & Wellness in Homer is one of three such health centers, plus Peninsula Community Health Services in Soldotna and Seward Community Health Center. Throughout the state, Community health centers work to promote and protect the health of the populations served, not just treat illnesses.

Community health centers are required to provide health care to people without regard to income, insurance status or type, or race or ethnicity. Although SVT Health & Wellness clinics are tribally managed, they are a community resource available to all people who need care.

A common misperception about SVT Health & Wellness is that access is restricted to Alaska Native or American Indians. This is not true, and in fact, close to four-fifths of clinic patients are of other racial/ethnic backgrounds.

SVT Health & Wellness is based in Homer, with additional clinics in Seldovia and Anchor Point. Seldovia Village Tribe (SVT) receives funding from the federal government to provide access to a full range of quality primary care, dental care, a variety of supportive services and, most recently, behavioral health services.

In 2015, SVT Health & Wellness clinics served 3,100 individual patients. SVT Health & Wellness is a unique Community Health Center in the variety of health-care modalities it offers.

Martin Luther King once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Federal funding allows Community Health Centers to discount the cost of health services to people whose family incomes put them below, at or even above federal poverty levels. In 2015, fully two-thirds of SVT Health & Wellness patients were qualified to receive discounted care.

With implementation of the Affordable Care Act, fewer Alaskans are uninsured, but more people have high deductible policies. This may leave a person reluctant to seek care due to high initial out-of-pocket costs. For these people, the sliding fee discounts available at community health centers is a benefit generally unavailable elsewhere. Community health centers such as SVT Health & Wellness accept medical insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare, and most employ outreach and enrollment workers to help community members secure health coverage and other resources that might be available to them. SVT Health & Wellness also serves as an extension of the Alaska Veterans Administration and provides health care to local veterans who are eligible for VA health-care services. Importantly, Community Health Centers are intended to play an important role in filling gaps in access to health care services faced by community members. For example, recent reductions in funding to public health nursing services have resulted locally in limitations in access to immunizations and reproductive health services. SVT Health & Wellness is among local health care organizations available to address this gap.

At the local community health center, you can expect high quality, comprehensive and integrated health care, delivered by professionals who are committed to partnering with you to ensure your best health outcomes. Health centers track our patients’ access to a variety of preventive health screenings, such as tobacco counseling and cessation, colorectal cancer and cervical cancer screenings, well woman, man and well child exams, and we seek to ensure that patients with one or more chronic diseases are monitored and managed effectively — all to reduce the burden of disease. Our health-care team will engage with you as a patient to provide a meaningful relationship around your health and wellness needs. Using a proactive approach, your care team will get to know your needs and provide coordination of care across the entire health-care system. Our goal is to provide the care you want and need, when and how you want it. We offer same day appointments.

SVT Health & Wellness is now in its 14th year of operation as a Community Health Center. We are honored to continue to serve the people of Homer, Seldovia and Anchor Point, and we welcome new patients and community members to our clinics.

Emily Read is the director of SVT Health & Wellness.