GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 12, 2012

Grant boosting AGH's ER presence

The Addison Gilbert Emergency Room will have not one, but two part-time advocates next year as part of a $167,000, three-year grant. The grant used some of the data from the Lahey Health Systems Community Health Needs Assessment, said assessment project manager Gerald MacKillop.

“(The assessment) reaffirmed the seriousness of having some additional services for folks suffering from behavioral health and substance abuse issues,” MacKillop said during a Tuesday night forum spotlighting the initial needs assessment data.

The program started last year as a pilot project run by the Healthy Gloucester Collaborative, said director Joan Whitney. Whitney said a Department of Public Health grant funded an 18-hour per week health promotion advocate trained specifically to help patients with substance abuse and behavioral health issues find further treatment once they’ve left the emergency room. Whitney said finding further treatment helps those patients get the care they need, before problems become emergencies.

“Hopefully it will help people not return to the emergency room over and over again for the same issue,” Whitney said.

Lahey Heath Systems, now the parent corporation of Northeast Health Systems and Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert Hospital, and its consulting firm of John Snow Inc., presented the assessment findings during the forum at The Gloucester House Tuesday. Lahey officials also presented Rockport findings at the Rockport Community House on Thursday.

The systems Gloucester has in place, said Noreen Burke, city Health Director, are addressing some of the concerns raised by the needs assessment. She said it reinforced work that the Health Department has done with prevention-oriented programs like Get Fit Gloucester.

“If we continue to build on (those programs) we can attack public health concerns more vigorously,” said Burke.

Gloucester’s concerns, said Alec McKinney, the senior project director for John Snow Inc., are chronic illness, aging population, obesity, high emergency room utilization and substance abuse and behavioral health issues. There are also significant disparities in the health of low income residents in Gloucester and their ability to access health services.

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