August 8, 2023
Hospital district to invest nearly $700 million to strengthen Travis County’s safety-net health system
AUSTIN – On Wednesday, August 2, the Central Health Board of Managers adopted the hospital district’s Healthcare Equity Action Plan, a roadmap for building a high-functioning, comprehensive safety-net healthcare system in Travis County.
The Action Plan will guide implementation of Central Health’s Healthcare Equity Plan, an equity-focused service delivery strategic plan adopted by the board in February 2022 after an 18-month planning process that included community input, clinical and data analysis, and benchmarking Travis County’s safety-net healthcare system against national peers. The Healthcare Equity Plan identified moderate to significant gaps throughout the healthcare system serving people with low income, including primary care, specialty care, behavioral health care, dental care, hospital care, and post-acute care.
“Before now, there was no roadmap for how to invest in making healthcare better in Travis County,” said Dr. Charles Bell, chair of the Board of Managers. “This region has a lot of smart people and a lot of good ideas, but there hasn’t been this kind of comprehensive look at what it will take to create a high-functioning system for the people we serve.”
The Healthcare Equity Action Plan’s gap analysis and needs assessment—enhanced by community input—have been translated by Central Health’s subject-matter experts and its national consulting partners at Guidehouse into 38 initiatives. This includes more than 150 projects to be implemented over the next seven years, in addition to the services Central Health currently provides. The work that went into developing this comprehensive list of projects, with phasing and funding estimates, forms the heart of the Healthcare Equity Action Plan.
Some projects already underway include:
- Development of a permanent medical respite care facility at the Cameron Road property recently acquired by Central Health for people experiencing homelessness.
- Launching new specialty care service lines in areas such as podiatry and nephrology, with more specialties debuting soon with the opening of the Central Health Rosewood-Zaragoza multi-specialty clinic in East Austin.
- Expanding substance use disorder treatment, including additional methadone and other medication-assisted treatments, in partnership with Integral Care, Austin and Travis County’s local mental health authority; Central Health’s affiliated CommUnityCare network of health centers; and other community partners.
Funding estimates call for Central Health to invest nearly $700 million into projects that strengthen the healthcare safety net. Central Health Chief Financial Officer Jeff Knodel recently presented a financial forecast that shows the hospital district judiciously drawing down its reserves—currently approximately $400 million—to implement the Healthcare Equity Action Plan.
“Central Health has been building towards this moment for almost 20 years,” said Mike Geeslin, Central Health’s president and CEO. “It’s why we’ve been setting aside reserves for direct patient care and a high-functioning health care system centered on the patient. This sophisticated roadmap will allow us to use funds strategically to close gaps in care, improve health outcomes, and reduce disparities and inequities.”