By Emily BazelonAugust 17, 2019 7:07AMIn a new initiative, Columbia University has launched a pilot program that is testing community-based drug testing in an effort to improve the quality of health care for low-income communities.
A new initiative called Community Health Equity Testing, or CHET, is a pilot project at Columbia that has enrolled community pharmacies to help ensure that the pharmacy’s workers are qualified to administer the testing.
The program was developed with a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Community Pharmacy, which will be administered by the Office of Drug-Related Disabilities (ODD) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
It is part of the $5.9 billion Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) program to fight the opioid epidemic.
“Our goal is to get people tested so they’re able to get the services they need,” said Dr. Jennifer T. Davis, Columbia’s chief of the Health and Mental Health Division.
“We’ve identified that we need a way to provide these services without having a lot of barriers to getting those services.”
The CHET program, which began in March 2019, will include a pharmacy with pharmacy-level training in community-driven testing and other programs.
The pharmacy will also have to offer a 24-hour pharmacy hotline, which must be staffed by trained pharmacists and staff who can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The first pharmacy to participate will be at the corner of Columbia Avenue and North Capitol Street in the South Ward.
The pilot program is expected to expand as more pharmacies enroll in the program.
“The pilot program will be able to improve access to care for the people who are low- and moderate-income and who live in neighborhoods that have been underserved,” said Davis.
In addition to providing pharmacists with a trained, qualified staff, the program will help local health departments provide access to testing and refer those who need it to other health providers.
The CHET team will be trained in the use of the new pharmacy technology, as well as the tools and resources that are available to them to ensure the testing is done in a timely fashion.
The CHAT pilot program has also included outreach and outreach-style education at the pharmacy and in community communities.
“If you want to be able have a positive impact, you need to make sure you’re connecting people,” said Ronna L. DeLuca, Columbia Medical Center’s chief medical officer and CHET coordinator.
“You need to be helping people who need to know that they can get tested and you can help them know that there are places to go for care and to get referrals.”
The pilot is being led by Dr. James M. Sperling, director of the Office for Community Pharmacists (OCMP) and a former president of the American Association of Community Health Plans (AACCHP), a group that represents community pharmacy owners.
In addition to the CHET pharmacy, the CHAT team will also include pharmacists at the local community pharmacy, which has the ability to administer testing for individuals with disabilities.
The pilot project was launched by Columbia’s Health, Safety and Wellness Center (HSLC) as part of its $5 billion program to address the opioid crisis, which is estimated to have cost the U!
economy more than $2 trillion over the past decade.
The program has helped to stabilize the nation’s health care system, but it has been underfunded and understaffed.
The $5,973,000 grant is part-funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is also partnering with Columbia to conduct the CHES.
The CDC’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will administer the pilot, and Columbia will administer a portion of the grants for its pharmacy, hospital and nursing home systems.
Columbia has partnered with the National Center for Community Mental Health (NCMH) to coordinate the pilot program.
In April, NCMH launched a National Mental Health Workforce Network (NMWN), a network of 1,500 community pharmacies across the country that is working with health departments and community pharmacies in helping to expand access to health care services for people with mental illness.