OpED in Hartford Courant on Malta

Victoria Veltri: In Hartford, the health safety net of the safety net

By Victoria Veltri • Hartford Courant • Jan 11, 2023

Connecticut is a healthy state by most health measures, yet a substantial number of our uninsured residents lack access to health care coverage and places to get ongoing, high quality, comprehensive health care in their neighborhood and from people they trust. We routinely refer to the “safety net” in health care. Malta House of Care, Inc., is one of a handful of free clinics in the state, a subset of nonprofit clinics in the state that carry a special designation from the federal government, as “free clinics.”

We are the safety net of the safety net.

Malta collaborates with partners in the health care delivery system, including hospitals and community health centers. Malta provides comprehensive primary care via a model that avoids the complications of billing and misaligned payment incentives that dominates the health care delivery system. We coordinate care that provides over 5,000 patient visits a year, through team-based care, and we do it with a small cadre of clinical staff and a pool of dedicated volunteer providers, including MDs, APRNs, PAs, behavioral health providers, nurses, and students in training for all roles. We also include medical interpretation, comprehensive medication management, and patient navigation.

Our patients face extreme barriers to well-being — poverty, unstable housing, unstable employment, food insecurity, high chronic disease burden, and much higher rates of disparities in access to services and health outcomes than insured residents experience. Our patients represent over 50 countries of national origin and speak over 25 languages.

Free clinics like Malta House of Care in Hartford serve residents who are ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or health insurance on their own or from an employer. We do not receive a regular source of funds from the state or the federal government. Malta cannot (under federal law) charge or accept payment from our patients for our services. We are free to our patients; Malta is one of a small group of clinics that comprise the safety net of the safety net.

You might be wondering; how can that be true? Doesn’t everyone have access to Medicaid or Medicare? Anyone can go the emergency room, right? Well, those are good questions with complicated answers. No, not everyone is eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. Emergency rooms are one of the most expensive sources of care, and they are not free, unless one qualifies for financial assistance or has health coverage. They are not equipped to be ongoing sources of care for people. While there are more options for health coverage than there used to be, coverage is not available to everyone.

Malta focuses our resources on comprehensive primary and preventive care – we focus on trying to promote health by providing care and addressing social, economic, legal, and other drivers of health. We provide these services at a stationary site in Hartford and at our mobile medical clinic locations in Hartford and East Hartford. We know that people with a usual source of care have better outcomes. Malta is the medical home for our patients, coordinating their care among other providers, and navigating other barriers to our patients’ well-being.

We collaborate with community health centers and providers in our area and hospitals for referrals for patients for ongoing specialty care or urgent specialty care. We complement the existing fabric of clinic sites that accept coverage and are obligated to charge uninsured patients for care. We exist to ensure access for people who cannot pay for health care. Free clinics are an absolute necessity because meaningful access to health care is a human right.

This necessity comes with its own challenges and rewards — raising funds for operations, including reliance on individual donors, philanthropy, and corporate giving for services; partnerships with local providers, industry, community organizations, and the towns where are our patients live; competition for precious dollars to keep the lights on, and a much larger need than apparent to most of us who are well-insured and well off.

Tens of thousands of uninsured patients in the Greater Hartford area need the services of Malta. Until we offer health coverage for everyone, free clinics will be here to offer access to high quality, ongoing care for our uninsured residents.

Victoria Veltri is the executive director of Malta House of Care, Inc. in Hartford, CT.

 

Original article can be accessed on The Courant’s website.

WFSB Channel 3 covers Opening Event, includes words from Chairman Brian Sheehan

New community in Hartford to provide health care and food

By Ayah Galal and Evan Sobol
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:55 PM EDT

HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – A new cathedral community center has opened its doors in Hartford.

It’s going to help more people in the capital city get access to healthcare and food.

This will help more people who don’t have health insurance and are food insecure.

Malta House has been serving the community with mobile vans for years.

Now that they have an actual building, they can more than double the patients they see.

“The Malta House project really gets to the heart of our mission. Our very essence which is working collaboratively and joining in projects that make life better for the poor and needy and the vulnerable,” said James Smith, General Chair of The Hartford Bishops’ Foundation.

The building will serve as the new permanent location for the Malta House of Care clinic and the Cathedral Food Pantry.

It’s located in the shadow of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph on its Farmington Avenue campus.

New patient rooms mean enhanced quality of care.

“We aim to be a valued and helpful contributor for the betterment of our communities and for the fulfillment of our mission,” said James.

The state-of-the-art outpatient clinic will allow Malta House to expand its services beyond Greater Hartford.

Since 2006, Malta House has provided over 70,000 free patient visits to uninsured people from 51 countries.

Services are free to people of all faiths.

“It’s an organization that was born right here in the city of Hartford to address health disparities in our community by serving the underserved and providing free primary care services to uninsured adults,” said Brian Sheehan, Chairman of Malta House of Care.

The new cathedral food pantry will allow expanded hours as well as food delivery to the homebound.

“As many struggle to survive the painful reality that was imposed on our society first by the pandemic and now by escalating inflation and unforeseen financial challenges. The food pantry is indeed a lifeline for our sisters and brothers in need,” said Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford.

The center is a $6.8 million project made possible with the help of grants and donors.

No local, federal or state funds were used on this project.

Copyright 2022 WFSB. All rights reserved.

 

Watch and read the original here.

Fox 61 covers Clinic Opening, includes Vicki Veltri interview

$8M privately funded food pantry, primary care center comes to Hartford

“The heart of charity in the center of Hartford,” said Archbishop Leonard Blair.

Author: Jim Altman
Fox 61
Published: 6:49 PM EDT September 20, 2022
Updated: 7:09 PM EDT September 20, 2022

HARTFORD, Conn. — The exterior of an old red brick building on Farmington Avenue in Hartford looks largely as it has for decades – it’s the inside that has been completely changed.

The Archdiocese of Hartford, The Hartford Bishops’ Foundation and The Malta House of Care celebrated Tuesday the opening of a collaborative project, The Cathedral Community Center.

Six years in the making and an estimated $8 million raised in private funds, the new center will provide the people of Greater Hartford two benefits: access to primary care and a food pantry.

“It’s brought together to offer people one location where they can get their health care when they need it,” said Vicki Veltri, the executive director of the Malta House of Care. “They can get access to food, many of our patients are food insecure.”

Archbishop Leonard Blair was proudly walking the grounds outside the Cathedral Community Center, which sits right next to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph on Farmington Avenue.

“This is the heart of charity here in the center of Hartford,” Blair said, and added, “It’s a wonderful day.”

The funds raised for the Cathedral Community Center came from private and corporate donors – no state or federal funds were used.

The Malta House of Care, which is known for providing mobile vans that offer health care in the Hartford area, will continue the mission but now there is a dedicated state-of-the-art brick-and-mortar clinic to tend to patients.

“This will enable them [The Malta House] to increase by two and a half times the number of people they’re able to serve here,” Blair said.

“This is our mission – to get people comprehensive primary care and the fact that we can open our doors on this day is really gratifying,” Veltri added, standing by the front doors of the health clinic.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the Cathedral Community Center was held Tuesday with staff and supporters cheering the accomplishment.

 

Jimmy Altman is a reporter at FOX61 News.

 

Watch and read the original piece here.

New space featured in Hartford Courant

Hartford Cathedral Center opening new space for free health care, food pantry, ‘ a remarkable transformation’

By Ed Stannard
Hartford Courant
Sep 19, 2022 at 3:38 pm

The Malta House of Care, whose van has offered primary health care to residents of Hartford and East Hartford since 2006, will begin welcoming its clients to a new, renovated, state-of-the-art site on the campus of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford on Tuesday.

The Cathedral Community Center also will offer expanded space for the cathedral’s food pantry, which has already served more meals in 2022 than in all of 2021, according to Archbishop Leonard Blair.

Housed in a former church hall, the center has been “gutted, renovated and brought up to standard” to provide comprehensive primary care to the low-income population in the Asylum Hill neighborhood, said Vicki Veltri, executive director of Malta House, on Monday. Until now, Malta House has offered care primarily through its medical van, which serves patients at the cathedral as well as at two sites in Hartford and East Hartford, she said.

Blair said that since 2006, 70,000 free visits by uninsured clients have been served by Malta House. The new site is “just a remarkable transformation that’s been made possible through the generosity of many people,” he said.

“You need to try to get people where they are,” Veltri said. “People have limited ability for transportation. … So I think the location is going to serve the Asylum Hill neighborhood, which is the predominant neighborhood that we serve, very, very well. But it opens up the van to go to other places.”

The clinic “offers comprehensive primary care services and, I will say, longitudinal too, because we have patients that have stayed with us for a long time,” Veltri said. “Providers have been committed for a long time. So we operate with a small staff, but we also have the good fortune of having about 40 volunteers who also work with us to provide this care to our community.”

The volunteers include doctors, nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, among others.

The Cathedral Community Center, which will house Malta House of Care and the cathedral food pantry, opens Sept. 20, 2022. 
(Aaron Joseph)

“It’s a tremendous group of people, very committed to helping people who cannot get coverage any other way,” Veltri said. “We’re looking at a population that cannot qualify for Medicaid or other coverage because either their status as immigrants or they don’t qualify for another reason for insurance coverage.”

Most patients are “very low income,” Veltri said, and represent about 30 languages and more than 50 countries of origin. There are Spanish and Portuguese translators on staff, “and I’m going to work on that as well, because we have a pretty large contingent of Portuguese-speaking patients” from Brazil and Portugal who make up a significant community in Hartford, she said.

Malta House also has been serving patients from Ghana at its East Hartford van stop on Mondays at St. Rose Roman Catholic Church, 33 Church St. The van also goes to St. Augustine’s Church, 10 Campfield Ave., Hartford, on Thursdays.

At other times, patients have been screened in the cathedral’s basement and then brought to the van for care.

Veltri said Malta House also had used a site on Woodland Street occasionally, “but it was smaller than our needs. We needed more space. And we needed to modernize it.”

The center has five exam rooms and private intake areas and is “much more, I think, amenable to our patients, who I think will see it as a beautiful site for them to come to for their health care,” Veltri said. Also, the new site “kind of frees us up a little bit to get some more neighborhoods with our van,” she said.

The center will also offer OB/GYN services, COVID-19 and flu clinics, behavioral health care and specialty days for dental, vision and cardiology care.

The Cathedral Community Center, which will house Malta House of Care and the cathedral food pantry, opens Sept. 20, 2022.
(Aaron Joseph)

Malta House is run under the auspices of the Order of Malta, a lay Catholic order that offers care to the poor, Blair said. ” I think we offer a unique service and we’ve been around for a long time and we want to continue doing it and this clinic just helps us expand it,” Veltri said.

The food pantry, run by members of the cathedral parish, also will be able to serve more of those in need, Blair said.

“In 2022 alone, over 11,000 people from the Greater Hartford area were served at the cathedral food pantry, and there are more families and individuals in the first eight months of 2022 than in all of 2021,” he said.

He said the pantry will be able to expand its hours and be able to offer blood pressure screenings, nutrition counseling and ease food delivery to the homebound.

“The food pantry also helps people moving from homelessness or shelters to apartments, including women coming from domestic abuse shelters, and men and women coming out of incarceration,” Blair said. “Those things also wind up coming under the sights of the food pantry. … And they also give non-food items like personal hygiene things, diapers, clothing, housewares.”

Blair said 41 tons of food have been received from Connecticut Foodshare over the years. “So having this greatly enhanced food pantry at the cathedral will be a tremendous boon to the charity and fellowship that we want to extend to the local community,” he said.

“I don’t think people are aware, even our Catholic people or the wider community, of just how much service is extended through the Cathedral of St. Joseph,” he said. “And this new facility, thanks to the generosity of many people, is going to make it even greater.”

 

Ed Stannard can be reached at estannard@courant.com

 

Read the full article here.