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"100% access to quality health care with 0% disparities for all."
The mission of DCPCA is to facilitate the development and sustainability of an effective integrated health care system in the District of Columbia that guarantees access to primary health care and eliminates disparities in health outcomes.
The District of Columbia Primary Care Association (DCPCA) works to improve the health of DC residents by ensuring that they receive high quality primary health care regardless of their ability to pay.
The District has the highest ratio of physicians to population in the country, and yet 300,000 of its 572,000 residents live in neighborhoods the federal government calls "Medically Underserved" or "Health Professional Shortage Areas." This lack of access to quality primary care means:
• People are sicker and die younger.
• People use emergency rooms inappropriately for primary care or go without care and are hospitalized when chronic illness becomes a crisis.
• Higher rates of disability for children and adults.
• Higher rates of hospitalization and long-term care, which increases taxpayer costs without achieving better health.
We believe there is a better way. We believe that everyone - especially people who are medically underserved by the health care system in our community - should get the right health care, at the right time, and in the right place. We believe that a fully funded, community-based primary health care system is the best first place for medical treatment whenever possible.
DCPCA is a nonprofit health reform organization founded in 1996 by health care professionals who were concerned that the shortage of primary health care in the District was contributing to increasingly poor health outcomes for DC's most vulnerable residents.
With a budget of $140,000 in seed money from the federal government's Bureau of Primary Care, Sharon Baskerville became DCPCA's first executive director in 1998.
As DCPCA established itself in the late 1990s, District voters elected a new mayor and six new members of the DC Council. The improved political environment made it possible for the District's budget to emerge from direct federal control. Under these new conditions, DCPCA emerged as a health reform leader and quickly became the local voice promoting progressive health care financing and public policy, galvanizing political support at the local and federal levels.
DCPCA has grown into a multi-million dollar organization, with an experienced and knowledgeable staff of over 20. Our wide network of local and national relationships enables us to work effectively to reshape the primary health care system in DC to bring high quality, efficient services to underserved communities.
Communities in Charge: This four-year, $1.8-million collaborative project funded in 1996 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the local foundation community gave DCPCA its first opportunity to advocate successfully to improve Medicaid enrollment and to push for Medicaid waivers and expansions, enabling an additional 26,000 people to receive Medicaid benefits. The project also supported funding and implementation of a pharmacy program for low-income seniors and the successful inclusion of the safety net health centers in the DC HealthCare Alliance, for low-income residents of DC who do not qualify for Medicaid coverage.
Medical Homes DC: In 2003, DCPCA received a $2.5 million, three-year Healthy Communities Access Program grant to implement the Medical Homes DC project. In 2005, DCPCA began full implementation of the Medical Homes DC initiative - a $145 million, 10-year project to rebuild the primary care system for low-income DC residents. Although DC government increased the number of low-income residents who are covered by public benefits by almost one third since 1998 and expends about one-fifth of its budget (approximately $1.2 billion on health care services each year), there is still a glaring shortage of primary care centers - and the care offered in many of these centers does not meet acceptable standards of quality and convenience. The rate of expensive hospital stays that could be avoided through better use of primary care declined significantly among both children and adults in DC between 2000 and 2003, when coverage in DC was expanding, aided by the efforts of DCPCA. Reinvigorated community-based health centers can also serve as economic development engines in distressed neighborhoods, improving quality of life through better health and community renewal.
Increased Communication and Civic Engagement: DCPCA engages an ever-widening circle of organizations and individuals in the creation of a powerful and sustained effort to improve health outcomes for the medically vulnerable. DCPCA members and partners have become familiar to the Mayor, Councilmembers, and heads of the DC government's health and social services agencies through testimony at hearings, letter writing, visits, and other advocacy in support of DCPCA activities. The District spends 20% of its budget ($1.2 billion in 2006) on health care for one of every three DC residents, and DCPCA is dedicated to holding District government accountable for spending that money wisely. Primary health care stakeholders have been brought together more closely through DCPCA's online publications - the Daily Local Health Alert and the quarterly e-newsletter, the DC Primary Care Reformer - which keep the community informed, engaged, and provides an opportunity to join the work of DCPCA.
- Ivy Mosley
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