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 Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chair Dave Woodward chat after a press conference to announce their plan to expand health care to neighborhoods in need.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chair Dave Woodward chat after a press conference to announce their plan to expand health care to neighborhoods in need.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki


Oakland County plans to expand public health care services

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published February 17, 2020

 The Oakland County 360 plan would make numerous services, including general primary health care and dental care, available to underinsured and uninsured residents.

The Oakland County 360 plan would make numerous services, including general primary health care and dental care, available to underinsured and uninsured residents.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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OAKLAND COUNTY — At 907 square miles, Oakland County isn’t as big as some of our rural neighbors to the north.

But the disparities between communities within Oakland County are vast.

According to the Oakland County Health Division, there is as much as a 14- to 20-year difference in life expectancy based on where a person lives in Oakland County. Communities like Pontiac and Southfield, and the communities surrounding those cities, have limited access to primary care doctors, mental health professionals, health screenings and resources, and assistance programs. When residents are able to reach out for some help, those services often are offered at different locations across the county.

“Many of our clients face a complexity of issues when they must seek assistance at multiple locations and providers,” said Oakland County Health and Human Services Director Kathy Forzley, explaining that, in order to visit those several different places, residents could be forced to take time off of work, secure transportation or child care, and navigate a host of other obstacles.

“Creating a one-stop shop for those services allows us to better address the full spectrum of needs we identified in these communities,” Forzley added.

So that’s exactly what the Health Division is aiming to do.

During a press conference Feb. 10, Forzley gathered with Oakland County Executive David Coulter and other stakeholders to announce a planned expansion of health care and support services aimed at serving the more than 227,000 uninsured and underinsured residents in the upper and lower parts of the county.

Called Oakland Health 360, the effort is described as a strategic partnership between the Oakland County Health Division, Honor Community Health and the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.

General primary care and family planning, dental, mental health and community support services would be available at the Health Division’s facilities in Pontiac and Southfield. That would include mental and behavioral health services, Head Start early childhood education, and emergency food, energy and housing assistance.

“Oakland Health 360 is a game changer,” Coulter said. “If you come in one of our doors to have your child immunized or receive a lead screening, I want you to be able to have a cancer or diabetes screening, talk to a mental health professional, get assistance with prescription drug costs, have a dental checkup and receive primary care.”

The partnership, according to Coulter, addresses many of the common barriers residents experience in the targeted communities.

In 2018, 37% of residents within seven cities surrounding Southfield and Pontiac lacked access to sufficient primary care services, and 39% of residents in those same areas lacked access to adequate mental health services.

There’s also a higher percentage of residents living in those areas who are uninsured compared to the county overall.

“We will not be able to better connect our customers to the many helpful programs and resources that are available in a streamlined and more efficient way,” said Susan Harding, the CEO of the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency, which will contribute to Oakland County 360 by offering in-house navigation of services for a variety of programming, including benefits from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, health insurance guidance, utility assistance, home weatherization and emergency rent assistance.

Honor Community Health would oversee the on-site health care services, like annual exams, preventative care, screenings and tests, dental care, women’s health services, vaccines, and more.

The effort, Coulter said, would cost about $4 million to start, and after some time, it is expected to be self-sustaining. The Oakland County Board of Commissioners is expected to take on the topic in committee in the coming weeks.

“This has been a conversation that we’ve been talking about, improving health care, and this is a sound plan that’s sustainable long-term,” said Commission Chair Dave Woodward, adding that he doesn’t foresee any obstacles in getting the project through the commission.

“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as a major partner with a county that understands the need for us to work together for the betterment of our community,” said Debbie Brinson, the CEO of Honor Community Health.

The northern branch of the Oakland County Health Division is located at 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, on the county campus in Pontiac. The southern branch is located at 27725 Greenfield Road in Southfield. Both locations are open 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays and 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays.

For more information on this project and other public health information and updates, visit oakgov.com/health.

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