Maine Primary Care Association and Penobscot Community Health Care Launch Pilot Program to Combat Opioid Epidemic in Maine

Bangor, ME – Nov. 10, 2021 – An innovative program expanding low-barrier treatment for opiate use disorder—potentially serving thousands of people across Maine—launches this month at six of the state’s community health centers. This pilot project—training community-based providers to build and maintain medically assisted treatment clinics—will increase access to this critically needed treatment in areas most affected by the opiate crisis, including the hard-hit rural areas of Maine.

Project ECHO, led by Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) and the Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA), will train six community health centers (representing nearly 65% of Maine community health center’s total patient population) to build programs modeled after PCHC’s Bridge Clinic in Bangor. Through the 12-month ECHO model, teams from each health center will learn to build, evaluate and improve their own programs.

“Low-barrier treatment for opioid use disorder means that people can access life-saving, evidence-based care more easily and more quickly, at a time when they are most motivated to get that care,” said Noah Nesin, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer at PCHC and an original planner of the Bridge Clinic. “That care is delivered in a manner that addresses the practical realities of their life, including issues like transportation, food, housing and social supports. This is the way we treat all other chronic diseases in primary care; by working first to engage with people on their terms, doing all that we can to initially stabilize their disease and then to collaborate in progressing toward a more comprehensive treatment plan.”

The successful launch of the project is the result of more than three years of work by health centers, legislative leaders, and the Mills Administration to develop strategies to address OUD. PCHC providers and operations experts will act as faculty, coaching and supporting the participating health centers as they create their own programs.

Dr. Christopher Pezzullo, Clinical Director at Maine Primary Care Association, said, “This low barrier model, coupled with the access afforded by community health centers in the most rural of states has the potential to be a game-changer. As we work to make MAT available to all patients at all stages of their disease, community health centers will provide evidence that this low barrier model is the key to addressing disparities in access to care for opiate use disorder.”

What is low-barrier Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

  • MAT is a proven effective method of addressing substance use/opioid use disorder. Low-barrier treatment puts as few hurdles as possible in front of people seeking treatment and recovery. Unlike other modes of treatment, low-barrier means greater access with fewer requirements.
  • Low-barrier MAT connects with people who are not currently able to access treatment as well as provide access to other supports in the community.
  • Community health centers are integral parts of their communities and thus uniquely positioned to support long-term healthcare relationships, especially with people who may not have had success with other treatment models.

The six participating health centers in this program include:

In addition to the health centers participating in this pilot, 100% of Maine’s community health centers have signed an opioid pledge, committing to continuous action as a network to address this epidemic. For more information on this program, participants, and pledge, click here.

Lisa Tapert Joins Maine Primary Care Association as Chief Program Officer

Augusta, ME – Oct. 12, 2021 – The Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA), a membership organization representing the collective voices of Maine’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), also known as Community Health Centers (CHCs), today announced that Lisa Tapert has joined MPCA as Chief Program Officer. In this new role, Lisa will be responsible for driving programmatic direction and improvement toward strategic association objectives, along with maximizing MPCA’s relationship with health center leadership to support network wide training and technical assistance initiatives.

Having worked in more than 20 countries around the world, Lisa brings to her position 30 years of global public health leadership and senior management experience, including organizational strategic planning and implementation, program development and execution, monitoring and evaluation, leadership development, and financial management. Most recently, Lisa spent seven years as Executive Director and then CEO of the Maine Mobile Health Program (MMHP), Maine’s FQHC dedicated to providing mobile health care and services to the state’s agricultural workers and seafood processors. Prior to serving at MMHP, she was Vice President, Global Access Programs for Axios International, a health care consulting firm based in Paris, France, where she managed the agency’s Asia offices.

Darcy Shargo, CEO, Maine Primary Care Association, said, “As someone who has worked with Lisa for years, I couldn’t think of a person more uniquely equipped to lead MPCA’s program team. Lisa’s deep roots in public health, understanding of the community health center model, and real-world experience addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion will help refine the focus of our work and bring added value to our Health Center Network.”

Commenting on her appointment, Lisa said, “I am thrilled to be joining such a talented team who shares my commitment to ensuring health access and equity for all Maine people. The state’s community health centers have a long and proud history of changing lives for the better and I look forward to supporting that through my work at MPCA.”

Lisa received her Master of Public Health degree in Maternal and Child Health, from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health in NYC and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Oberlin College in Ohio. She currently resides in Harpswell with her husband and three tiger-striped cats and likes to knit, with a focus on hot pink and orange yarn, during her spare time.

Maine Primary Care Association Announces Winners of the 2021 Clinical and Administrative Excellence Awards

Augusta, ME – Oct. 7, 2021 – The Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA), a membership organization representing the collective voices of Maine’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Clinical and Administrative Excellence Awards, which will be presented at our virtual Annual Conference taking place on Thursday, Oct.7, Oct. 14, and Oct. 21. The Clinical and Administrative Excellence Awards were created in 2005 to honor the contributions and accomplishments of individuals and health center advocates working to ensure that affordable, high quality health care is available to all Mainers.

This year, MPCA is recognizing five individuals for their leadership, dedication, and support of Maine’s Community Health Centers. The 2021 award winners are as follows:

  • Holly Gartmayer-DeYoung President’s Award – In Memory of Theresa Bray Knowles, FNP-C, Chief Quality Officer, Penobscot Community Health Care
  • Carol Eckert, MD Memorial Award – Gita Rao, MD, MPH, Clinical Director, School Based Health Centers, Greater Portland Health
  • Community Champion Award – Hope House Team, Penobscot Community Health Care
  • Behavioral Health Excellence Award – Laura Valencia Orozco, LCSW, Maine Mobile Health Program
  • Unsung Hero Award – Community Care & Geriatrics Team, Penobscot Community Health Care

Darcy Shargo, CEO, Maine Primary Care Association, said, “Maine’s Community Health Centers are home to a remarkably talented and selfless group of individuals. Their compassionate care and dedication to the communities they serve are a model for us all. This year’s award recipients have risen above the throes of a worldwide pandemic in service of others and truly exemplify what it means to put patients first. They couldn’t be more deserving of this honor.”

Maine Primary Care Association Appoints Hannah Hudson as Policy and Communications Manager

Augusta, ME – Aug. 24, 2021 – The Maine Primary Care Association (MPCA), a membership organization representing the collective voices of Maine’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), also known as Community Health Centers or CHCs, today announced the appointment of Hannah Hudson as the association’s Policy and Communications Manager. In her role, Hannah will be responsible for supporting MPCA’s public policy and communications initiatives and strengthening the capacity of Maine’s Community Health Center Network to more effectively advocate for its mission.

Hannah previously worked in Washington, DC as a policy staffer for Maine Senator Susan M. Collins, leading efforts on global health and international trade. Prior to that, she was a consultant at The Cohen Group, a strategic business advisory firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of Defense and former Maine Senator William S. Cohen. She earned a BA in International Affairs and an MA in Global Policy from the University of Maine.

Bryan Wyatt, Director of Policy and Communications, Maine Primary Care Association, said, “Hannah brings a combination of policy experience and real life understanding to this role. Having grown up in Washington County, she knows what local, high quality, community health care means to rural and underserved populations in our state. Hannah will be a passionate advocate for the people and communities of Maine, and we are excited to welcome her to the MPCA team.”

Commenting on her appointment, Hannah said, “I am thrilled to be returning to my home state and joining the MPCA team. I look forward to supporting the tremendous work of community health centers across Maine as they work to ensure health care is accessible for all.”

Hannah is originally from Columbia Falls and now lives in mid-coast Maine with her cat, Bugs. Outside of work, she remains an active alumna of the University of Maine and volunteers as the Co-Director of Leaders School, an outdoor adventure summer program of the Bangor Region YMCA.

Maine’s Community Health Centers Celebrate National Health Center Week with
Special Events Scheduled Statewide

Augusta, ME – Aug. 9, 2021 – National Health Center Week, August 8-14, 2021, is an annual celebration designed to raise awareness of the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers over the past five decades. Maine’s community health centers serve as a beacon of strength, service and care in their communities and have long played a critical role in ensuring access to affordable, high-quality care for all Maine people, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. During the weeklong celebration, health centers throughout Maine will be holding special events in recognition of patients, staff, programs and community partners.

Located at over 70 convenient service sites across the state – spanning a vast network that reaches north to Fort Kent, south to Springvale, east to Lubec, and west to Rangeley – Maine’s community health centers care for nearly 210,000 individuals, or 1:6 Maine people, while generating overall savings to the health system of $312 million. They are also economic engines, employing nearly 2,000 people and contributing more than $445 million in direct and community spending each year.

Community health centers are unique, patient-driven organizations. They are not just healers, they are also innovators who look beyond medical charts to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. They are a critical piece of the health care system and collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcome for people who are medically vulnerable or underserved. Because of their track record of success in innovation, managing health care costs and reducing chronic disease, community health centers have a proud tradition of strong bipartisan support among Maine’s congressional delegation.

In appreciation for the compassionate care that health center professional staff and care delivery teams provide 365 days a year, Darcy Shargo, CEO, Maine Primary Care Association said, “This may be National Health Center Week, but Maine’s community health centers work to keep our communities and loved ones healthy and safe each and every day. To a person, health center staff are hardworking, skilled and caring: we couldn’t be more thankful for the important work they are doing, not only in supporting our communities during the pandemic, but also in ensuring equitable access to health resources all year long.”

To learn more about Maine’s Community Health Centers and/or Community Health Center Week, please contact Bryan Wyatt at (207) 707-4536.