Proposal Aims to Build New Community Health Workforce to Improve Health Outcomes in Dorchester, Caroline Counties

CAMBRIDGE, Md. (June 24, 2013) —Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown today held a press conference at the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center (ESAHEC) to present a ceremonial check for $755,000 to fund the Competent Care Connections (CCC) Coalition Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ), which will be managed by the Dorchester and Caroline County Health Departments in partnership with several local community organizations.

"The Competent Care Connections HEZ is proof that when we work together and focus on community-based prevention and care, we can make a real impact on the disparities in health and health care coverage on the Eastern Shore,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “We’re excited to work with Caroline and Dorchester Counties, along with all of their partners, to ensure that more of our families, friends, and neighbors live healthy and productive lives, while also controlling preventable health care costs.”

The Dorchester-Caroline HEZ was one of the first five locations in Maryland designated as a Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ) in January. Championed by the Lt. Governor and jointly administered by the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the HEZ initiative is a four-year pilot program with a budget of $4 million per year. Community coalitions in each of the five areas will receive a range of incentives, benefits, and grant funding to address unacceptable and persistent health disparities.

"On behalf of both Dorchester and Caroline County, Mr. Harrell and I would like to thank the Lt. Governor for his key role in helping to bring these desperately needed programs and services to the region," said Caroline County Health Officer Dr. Leland Spencer.

Subject to annual approval, the CCC Coalition will receive a total of $3,020,000 over the next four years to implement their proposal, which seeks to improve public health outcomes in Dorchester and Caroline Counties by implementing a new community health workforce in the Mid-Shore region and expanding access to mental health services and primary care for individuals who visit hospital emergency departments for behavioral health conditions and chronic illnesses. The Coalition plans to add a total of 18 new providers in the Zone, including two primary care physicians, one nurse practitioner, one registered nurse, eight social workers, and six community health outreach workers, who are being trained at the ESAHEC. The proposal also includes the creation of a new mobile mental health crisis team focused exclusively on serving Dorchester and Caroline Counties.

“This is a very exciting grassroots opportunity for Dorchester and Caroline counties. It is the result of a vision developed by many community agencies who are working together to make sure health care is available to vulnerable populations in these counties," said State Delegate Addie Eckardt.

The HEZ program was established by the Maryland Health Improvement & Health Disparities Reduction Act, signed into law in April 2012.  DHMH and the CHRC issued a Call for Proposals in October 2012 through which community organizations and local health departments could apply for HEZ designation status, to be awarded on a competitive basis. Applications were evaluated based on a set of 13 review principles by an independent HEZ Review Committee comprised of experts in the fields of public health, health disparities, and health care delivery. Areas designated as HEZs will have access to a range of incentives that include state income tax credits; hiring tax credits; loan repayment assistance; priority entrance into the state’s Patient Centered Medical Home Program; priority for available state electronic health record grant funding; additional grant funding from the Community Health Resources Commission; and capital grant support.

"I am excited about the partnership with the Associated Black Charities, to deploy four Community Health Outreach Workers in the Dorchester-Caroline HEZ. This will increase the reach and connection to the people most in need," says Dr. Carlessia Hussein, Director, DHMH Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities.

The purposes of the HEZ Initiative are to: (1) Reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations and among geographic areas; (2) Improve health care access and health outcomes in underserved communities; and (3) Reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and readmissions. To receive designation as an HEZ, community coalitions identified contiguous geographic areas with measurable and documented economic disadvantage and poor health outcomes and proposed a creative plan for targeted investments in community health. Nineteen coalitions submitted proposals in fall 2012. The other four proposals chosen for the pilot program along with Dorchester and Caroline Counties were for HEZs located in West Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s Counties.

For additional information about the HEZ Initiative, please visit

Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s efforts to reduce costs, expand access, and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders. Under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland has implemented reforms that have expanded health coverage to more than 375,000 Marylanders, half of whom are children, established Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange, and put the State in position to maximize the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Independent analysis by the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County has found that implementation of the ACA will benefit the state’s budget by $672 million through 2020, generate more than $3 billion in annual economic activity, cut the number of uninsured in half, and create more than 26,000 jobs.