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Cone Health Foundation sharpens focus

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Susan Shumaker

Susan Shumaker

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — For the past year, a group of HIV/AIDS providers serving Guilford County have met two to three times a month to talk about creating a one-stop, patient-  centered shop that people living with HIV/AIDS could visit to obtain services that multiple agencies now provide separately in separate locations.

As a result of those talks, four agencies expect early next year to relocate either their offices or some of their staff to a medical office building near Moses Cone Hospital.

“Our clients will be able to go to one place to see their case manager, their doctor, and a mental health professional,” says Addison Ore, executive director of the Triad Health Project, which will provide two case managers who will join Central Carolina Health Network, Moses Cone Infectious Disease Clinic, and Family Services of the Piedmont at the new location.

“This is going to revolutionize the way we care for people living with HIV/AIDS in our community,” she says.

The catalyst for the collaborative effort was the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation, which recently changed its name to Cone Health Foundation, narrowed its focus and decided to play a greater advocacy role on health issues.

Formed in 1997 through the merger of The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Community Hospital, the foundation has $105 million in assets and now will focus on access to health care; HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections; adolescent pregnancy prevention; and substance abuse and mental health.

The foundation is considering focusing its advocacy on behalf of tobacco-free environments, and also to help the public better understand new federal legislation that will bring sweeping changes in health care, says Susan Shumaker, president of the foundation.

The foundation is looking for advocacy partners, including local elected officials and health agencies, systems and officials on tobacco-free environments, and other funders and partners on health-care reform.

Shumaker says the foundation is “much more targeted and focused, and outcomes and impact are very important.”

It also is coping with the impact of the struggling economy, she says.

With its assets down from $130 million three years, before the plunge in the capital markets two years ago, but up from a low of $77 million at the bottom of the recession, the foundation next year expects to make roughly $4 million in grants.

That is down from $5 million it typically has made each year over two grant cycles.

In 2009 and 2010, because of the decline in its assets, the foundation has made grants only once a year.

And with existing commitments for multi-year grants, and with annual grants based on assets calculated by a rolling average over 12 quarters, the foundation likely will not be accepting new applications until 2013, Shumaker says.

The foundation also froze salaries last year for its staff of five people.

Shumaker says the HIV/AIDS collaboration illustrates the kind of catalytic role it wants to play and will be a “game-changer for how HIV care is delivered.”

Central Carolina Health Network, for example, receives funding for HIV/AIDS services that 47 agencies provide to roughly 900 people in seven counties, and it also provides counseling and funds case-management services at groups like Triad Health Project, HomeCare Providers of Alamance Regional Medical Center, and Randolph Hospital in Asheboro.

Triad Health Project provides support services and case management for people living with HIV/AIDS in Guilford County, serving 500 clients in two offices, one in Greensboro and a smaller office in High Point.

And the Moses Cone Infectious Disease Clinic provides medical care for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

With access to health care a big challenge for low-income patients, the new collaborative effort will “give us the capacity to better serve the clients we are seeing by giving them ‘wrap-around’ services by going to one location rather than several locations in a community,” says Kent Gammon, executive director of Central Carolina Health Network.

Ore of Triad Health Project says the agency’s clients, who are “often poor, not very well-educated, and marginalized a lot for most of their life,” have had to “navigate a broken system.”

Sandra Welch Boren, program officer at the Cone Health Foundation, says the new collaborative initiative represents “a whole new paradigm for Guilford County in terms of how we take care of folks with HIV.”

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