Your Weekly Briefing: Health In Rhode Island, 9/27

Sep 27, 2016

Here’s what’s happening in health care in Rhode Island.

  • ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Women and Infants and Memorial Hospitals have been awarded more than $11 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health for a multi-year study of the environmental influences on fetal development and children’s health. They’re among 35 grantees who, together, will enroll more than 50,000 children in a study that hopes to add to our understanding of what influences early fetal development and childhood development. In a statement, researchers from Memorial say they hope to “better understand how the various environmental, genetic and nutritional influences interact to shape early brain development from the prenatal stage through childhood and to puberty…” Researchers from Women and Infants want to” study the development of these infants in the broader environmental cohort in which they develop, including a range of exposures from air pollution and chemicals in our neighborhoods to societal factors such as stress and parenting…”
  • LIFESPAN/DANA FARBER: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Lifespan have agreed to partner on cancer treatment and research.  Officials say the new relationship will cover five areas, according to a statement: “genomics and precision medicine; clinical trials; value-based care and cancer care delivery innovation; shared care models; and cancer workforce development.” The organizations say Lifespan cancer patients can continue to be treated in Rhode Island, but those with more complex or rare cancers might be referred for treatment at Dana-Farber in Massachusetts.
  • OPIOID TREATMENT: Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals announced that CODAC Behavioral Healthcare will be Rhode Island’s first Center of Excellence for treating opioid addiction. CODAC is the state’s largest methadone treatment provider. Patients who need treatment can walk into a COE or be referred for treatment. At the COE, patients will be stabilized, started on treatment, and then referred to a health care provider in the community. It’s an approach that’s designed to boost primary care doctors’ ability to treat the growing number of opioid addicts in Rhode Island, some of whom need higher levels of care than primary care, at first, but not necessarily inpatient hospitalization. The COEs can provide all three FDA-approved medications for treating opioid addiction, including methadone, Suboxone, and naltrexone. They’ll be staffed with multidisciplinary teams of providers to meet the needs of people in early recovery from addiction.
  • SEXUAL ASSAULT:  Sojourner House, a domestic violence agency, is expanding its mission to include victims and survivors of sexual assault. The organization has Sojourner House started offering permanent supportive housing for families impacted by violence, and later this fall, Sojourner House will be opening Rhode Island’s first shelter for victims of human trafficking.  
  • BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CARE COSTS: Business leaders met at the Providence Marriott on Orms St. Friday, Sept. 23 to discuss ways in which employers can reduce the cost of behavioral health care for their organizations and employees. The Rhode Island Business Group on Health summit brought together local and national experts on the impact of those costs on employer health insurance premiums and how to bring them down.
  • INSURANCE QUALITY RANKINGS: Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan’s Medicaid managed care health insurance plans have earned top marks from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). The rankings measure consumer satisfaction, prevention, and treatment outcomes. The NCQA ranked Tufts’ private health insurance plans tops in terms of quality in Rhode Island. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island came in next. See the rankings here. About the NCQA: “The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to assessing and reporting on the quality of managed care plans, managed behavioral healthcare organizations, preferred provider organizations, new health plans, physician organizations, credentials verification organizations, disease management programs and other health-related programs.”
  • HEALTH RESEARCH GRANTS: The Rhode Island Foundation is offering more than $1.6 million in grants to seed medical research in diabetes, dementia and blindness. The deadline to apply for the  Foundation’s new Special Medical Funds program is October 11. Grants are expected to range from $10,000 to $75,000. The deadline to apply for nearly $500,000 in Medical Research grants is Oct. 21. Grants of up to $25,000 are available to faculty at academic institutions or hospitals in Rhode Island. These one-time grants help emerging researchers get projects to the point where they can compete for national funding.