Cape Cod Healthcare pays commercial fishermen to provide fresh, local fish to community food pantries. Brigham and Women’s Hospital reaches out to local school systems to increase education and employment opportunities for young people and to create pathways for careers in healthcare and the life sciences. At Beth Israel Lahey Health’s Anna Jaques Hospital, a dedicated patient care navigator champions women throughout their pregnancies, supporting those with substance use disorder and/or neonatal abstinence syndrome. And Holyoke Medical Center has contracted with a local partner providing passenger shuttles to ensure that folks in its service area can get to their medical appointments, or just visit a friend or relative in the hospital.
Every hospital in Massachusetts has such community benefit programs that are provided at no cost to those being served, and that are not reimbursed by state or federal governments, health insurance companies, or any public subsidies. According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Massachusetts hospitals in FY18 provided nearly $650 million in community benefits for Massachusetts residents. The IRS – allowing hospitals to count financial losses related to care provided to Medicaid recipients and medical education costs, among other metrics – totals hospital community benefits in Massachusetts at $2.7 billion annually.
MHA has produced a publication – A Commitment to Community: Massachusetts Hospitals’ Community Benefit Initiatives
– that details stories from each of its acute care hospital members throughout the commonwealth, showing how they are improving the health of individuals and communities.
A special section highlights the intersection between housing and health – that is, how housing instability directly contributes to poor health outcomes. The development and maintenance of safe, affordable living accommodations is one of the six social determinants of health that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has identified in its Determination of Need guidelines, and housing is one of the four community benefits areas on which the state encourages hospitals to focus.
“These are stories that need to be heard, because they tell how hospitals each day are working outside of their walls to empower the disadvantaged and strengthen the links between us all,” said MHA President & CEO Steve Walsh. “Our members’ work ranges from providing healthy food programs for kids in schools and seniors, to integrating housing assistance into a patent’s care plan, to training EMS responders, and running substance use disorder recovery programs. All of it is noble and it’s all worthy of attention.”