The Plateau Post

AZ Bill Bolsters New Family & Community Medicine Residency

Earlier this year Governor Doug Ducey signed AZ House Bill 2392 to provide much-needed funding for community health centers that sponsor graduate medical education (GME) programs. As a community health center and sponsoring institution of a graduate medical education program, North Country HealthCare will be greatly impacted by the new legislation.

Dr. Anne Newland, MD, MPH, and CEO of North Country HealthCare was part of the team that worked to push this legislation through. Dr. Newland stated that the funding from the bill will help expand the NARBHA Institute Family & Community Medicine Residency, sponsored by North Country.

“This is a big win for us,” stated Dr. Newland. “This funding will create a pathway to increase our current class size from 12 to 18 or even 24 residents. Ultimately this bill will put more doctors in rural areas where there is insufficient access to healthcare.”

The NARBHA Institute Family & Community Medicine Residency at the Colorado Plateau Center for Health Professions (CPCHP) has a goal to train talented individuals to become exceptional family physicians and to increase the primary care workforce throughout northern Arizona. The program’s leaders are committed to supporting, encouraging, and guiding these individuals along their medical journey to become leaders in both urban and rural communities everywhere.

What is the bill?

AZ House Bill 2392 allows qualifying community health centers and rural health clinics, which are defined by Arizona’s Medicaid program (AHCCCS), to access federal Medicaid matching dollars to support GME, which previously was only available to hospitals in Arizona. This bill opens up numerous doorways for medical personnel to provide much-needed healthcare to those living in rural areas of the state.

For the CPCHP in particular, their family and community medicine residency would have the opportunity to increase its class size to meet rural healthcare needs. With the recent increase of mental illness, due largely in part to the pandemic, this bill could help fund and support the Center’s future plans of opening up a psychiatry residency program as well.

How was the bill passed?

The bill was passed on March 23, 2021 through the efforts of Dr. Newland and many key partners, including members of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, the Flagstaff City Council, the Northern Arizona Leadership Association, and others across Arizona. Tara Plese at the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers helped to secure sponsorship of the bill from Rep. Joanne Osborne and Rep. Regina Cobb.

Dr. Newland and her partners held one-on-one meetings with legislators to explain the legislation in detail. Dr. Newland stated that, “we also had a team testify to the Arizona House and Senate Health and Human Services Committees to explain why the bill was important and to answer questions about how it would work.”

Regarding who is affected by the bill, Dr. Newland said, “It affects patients because there will be more physicians available to care for our communities. Training in the community will also increase the quality of care offered in the sponsoring institution’s clinics.” This is why it is crucial that the medical organizations involved with training physicians are up-to-date on the medical practice guidelines in order to receive the funding instigated by AHCCCS.

What are the benefits?

Now that the bill has passed, its key benefit is funding for more doctors trained to meet the varied primary healthcare needs of those living in rural northern Arizona. However, that is not all this bill seeks to benefit. It will also help to:

  • Retain more doctors in northern Arizona. Residents are highly likely to practice medicine where they received their residency training.
  • Recruit more physicians to care for the underserved populations that are more likely to receive care at a federally qualified health center, versus a private doctor’s office.
  • Make a significant economic impact over the next 10 years. CPCHP’s current family and community medicine residency was estimated to have a $150 million economic impact with over 130 new jobs created, according to one study commissioned by North Country HealthCare and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

With the introduction and passing of the AZ House Bill 2392, graduates of the NARBHA Institute Family & Community Medicine Residency will both reap and sow all these benefits as they venture into Arizona’s rural communities, providing medical care to those in need.

If you’re interested in supporting the Colorado Plateau Center for Health Professions in their efforts to train more future health professionals in northern Arizona, see how you can get involved.

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