One Brooklyn Health to attack health disparities
By Michael Derek Roberts
By any measurement Brooklyn’s Caribbean- American community today faces a myriad of health disparities. Studies show that this community has some of the highest and endemic rates of HIV/AIDS, cancers, heart disease and diabetes when compared with the rest of the borough in particular, and New York City in general.
In fact, Central Brooklyn – where the vast majority of the Caribbean-American population lives – is one of the most vulnerable areas that is riddled with these health disparities characterized by higher rates of obesity, limited access to healthy foods or opportunities for physical activity, high rates of violence and crime, wide economic disparities due to unemployment, high poverty levels, and inadequate access to high quality health care and mental health services.
Now all of that is about to undergo a radical change thanks to New York State’s governor Andrew Cuomo. The Democratic governor recently awarded $700 million in funding to develop a One Brooklyn Health System (www.obhs.org) – a new unified local health care system – to support the state’s ongoing efforts to transform its overall health care system and increase access to quality care throughout Central Brooklyn.
“For far too long, chronic disparities in health care have contributed to systemic poverty in Central Brooklyn, and Vital Brooklyn is a national model for tackling those challenges and addressing every facet of community wellness,” Governor Cuomo said.
“This holistic investment creates a sustainable, unified health care system to empower historically underserved communities, support health and wellness and ensure a brighter future for the people of Brooklyn.”
According to the plan, One Brooklyn Health will feature targeted investments that are aimed at strengthening local health care facilities to close current gaps and increase services; develop a 32-site ambulatory care network that will include partnerships with existing community-based providers; and transform the health care system by increasing access to quality services and preventive care. The announcement builds on the Governor’s transformative Vital Brooklyn initiative to improve the health care delivery system in Brooklyn.
Northwell Health’s “The Brooklyn Study: Reshaping the Future of Healthcare,” Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center have partnered together to create the One Brooklyn Health System, which will serve as an integrated, central health care delivery system in Central Brooklyn.
The funds will support the development of an expansive integrated ambulatory care network, significant infrastructure modernization at each of the three hospital facilities, including regionalizing clinical programs and restructuring inpatient services, and the creation of enterprise wide health information technology platform to improve coordination and delivery of care through an efficient, high quality regional health care delivery system.
“The blueprint came from that study and it was to take these three organizations and create a new system of healthcare for this part of Brooklyn called the One Brooklyn Health. The idea being that if these three organizations would collaborate with each other as opposed to competing with each other than we would better serve the community,” said Dominick Stanzione, CEO of Brookdale Hospital.
The One Brooklyn Health System is led by LaRay Brown who is also the Chief Executive Officer and President of Brooklyn’s Interfaith Medical Center, Inc. since February 2016. She served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Planning Community Health and Intergovernmental Relations and Corporate Officer at New York City Health And Hospitals Corporation. She also had a stint at NYC Health + Hospitals (HHC), the largest municipal hospital system in the nation, for the past 28 years.
Ms. Brown is a nationally recognized advocate for community health and safety-net hospitals. Her role at HHC has included strategic planning; the formulation and execution of legislative initiatives and advocacy strategies; as well as serving as the organization’s liaison to elected officials, government agencies and policy organizations. She has also taken the lead in expanding the public health care delivery system’s primary care footprint throughout New York City.
“The One Brooklyn Health System addresses the critical need for access to health care in Central and Northeast Brooklyn. This significant investment in the One Brooklyn Health System highlights Governor Cuomo’s continued strong commitment to lifting up all New Yorkers.
A healthy population is the foundation of any viable community and we applaud the Governor and state legislators for recognizing that every New Yorker has a right to quality health care!” Ms. Brown said.
The plan envisions that of the $700 million, $224 million will be used to develop a 32-site ambulatory care network that is projected to create 255 jobs and bring an additional 300 primary care physicians to Central Brooklyn.
The system will partner with local community health centers, including Bedford- Stuyvesant Family Health Center, ODA Crown Heights, Brightpoint Health and the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center. One Brooklyn will invest an additional $384 million in the infrastructure of member hospitals, carving out clinical niches for each.
Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center will undergo the most drastic change. The hospital will be converted from an inpatient facility into a medical village with a mix of outpatient, emergency and post-acute care services. Brookdale, meanwhile, will increase its inpatient capacity by 100 beds and undergo renovations supporting its role as a regional trauma center. Interfaith will update its emergency department and develop a psychiatric emergency program to support the integration of behavioral health and primary care.
The hospitals have reserved $142 million of the $384 million to support additional capital projects. Finally, the system will invest $70 million in a new health information technology system linking the three hospitals and other providers in One Brooklyn Health.
“Programs to provide access to quality health care are a cornerstone of New York’s values, and address the specific needs of our community in Brooklyn. I look forward to continue working with the Governor and the Advisory Council on Vital Brooklyn,” Senator Roxanne Persaud said. George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, added:
“As healthcare cuts on the national level continue to threaten New York’s communities, this investment is a beacon of hope for Brooklyn’s working families. This award fulfills the commitment made by Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders to transform central and east Brooklyn’s health care institutions into a sustainable, community-based system that will seek to address the root causes of health care disparities.”
As part of the plan, each hospital will have programs or services on which it has a particular focus, that will not be duplicated by the other hospital; but a full range of inpatient and specialty care services will be available in the system for whatever patients need. “This approach will enable limited resources to be used most effectively to better serve the communities,” according to OBH CEO, LaRay Brown.
She explained that there could be additional opportunities for further consolidation as healthcare evolves. For example, as more community health services are developed, there may be less demand for hospital stays. Instead of having multiple inpatients units with low occupancy, the system will look to see where services could be concentrated on one campus, and consider enhancing services that are the other campus’ strong suit to better meet the community’s needs.