MCHC FARMACY – 2015-2018 and Beyond
Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC), a federally qualified health center, with nine clinics in the Eastern Kentucky counties of Letcher, Perry, Owsley, Bell, and Harlan and fifteen school-based clinics in the school districts of Letcher County, Owsley County, Pineville Independent and Jenkins Independent, has partnered with the City of Whitesburg/Letcher County Farmer’s Market, Owsley County Farmer’s Market, Bell County Extension Office and Leatherwood Farmer’s Market to provide increased access to locally grown fruits and vegetables through an innovative nutrition program known as FARMACY. This program began in 2015 with one Market and we have seen expansion and growth, serving 4 markets during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
How FARMACY Works
There are two ways for MCHC patients to be eligible for the FARMACY program.
Pregnant women and Type 1 diabetics qualify regardless of income.
Patients diagnosed with Diabetes, Obesity, and/or Hypertension qualify IF their incomes fall below 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines as established annually by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (SNAP participation required for USDA FINI)
In order for eligibility to be established, the patient must have one of the above mentioned diagnoses and must receive a prescription from an MCHC clinical provider, which says “OK FARMACY”. The patient takes this prescription to an eligibility assistance counselor, who then begins the eligibility determination process. If determined to be eligible, the patient must submit to the collection of data for the program, which consists of initial measures such as body mass index (BMI), height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and A1C levels to set their baseline in order for us to determine what impact the FARMACY program may have on the patient’s health and well-being. Once eligibility is determined, the patient will be notified of the amount of tokens that they will receive, at their respective Farmer’s Market, each week. This amount is calculated in the following manner: $2 per day for the patient and $1 per day for each additional household member for a week to redeem for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. For example, a household of four would receive $35 per week. Only one member of the household has to have a qualifying diagnosis for the entire household to benefit from the FARMACY program.
The name of each qualifying household head and their respective weekly amount is then added to the official list for each Market which is delivered to the Market Manager via an MCHC employee on a tablet or laptop computer. The MCHC employee then assists the Market Manager in collecting data and distributing the FARMACY tokens appropriately. The designated household member must show up at their participating market and provide a photo I.D. and their SNAP card (if SNAP eligible). Then a market manager or market assistant will check their eligibility and issue wooden or plastic tokens with values of $1 and $5, up to the patient’s listed weekly amount. The patient then takes the tokens to a market vendor/grower to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. At the end of the market day, the local farmers cash in the FARMACY tokens with the market manager to receive payment via a check from the market.
MCHC also sponsors blender bikes to promote physical activity and healthy eating at the City of Whitesburg/Letcher County Farmer’s Market and Owsley County Farmer’s Market. The blender bikes are stationary bikes that make smoothies out of fresh fruits and vegetables as the riders pedal the bikes.
The demand for the FARMACY program has been astounding and has grown considerably for 2017. During the 2017 market season, 462 households received FARMACY incentives which served a total of 1,127 people. This included 543 Qualified Recipients who not only benefited from the program, but were also measured to collect data.
In 2017, the data we gathered on the health benefits to these 543 qualified recipients, was reported as follows: The recorded weight loss is a cumulative 280.54 pounds and an 84.45 point decrease in BMI. Waist circumference decreased a total of 106.10 inches.
MCHC was able to help 543 MCHC patients and their respective family members (totaling 1,127 people served) to gain access to healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables to improve quality of life and health outcomes.
2018 data was being compiled and tabulated at the time of this update.
The FARMACY program has been a “win-win-win” as stated by MCHC Chief Executive Officer, L.M. (Mike) Caudill. The patients win because they have access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at no cost to them, and the hope is that patients’ health outcomes will improve, and that their culture of eating will shift and improve to healthier choices of preparation and choice. The community and farmers win because of the additional funding stream to the participating Farmer’s Markets and the local farmers which creates even more economic activity in the community. The FARMACY program added an additional $18,305 to the farmers’ market sales in the 2015 season, and $117,556 in 2016. MCHC wins because it potentially results in better health for our patients and spotlights the patient-centered mentality of MCHC in the dawn of the era of pay for performance health care. MCHC plans to sustain and eventually expand the FARMACY program to the other local farmers’ markets in the counties served by MCHC as resources permit. The payers win because if patients’ health improve, then the cost of providing care should decrease.
If you would like additional information about MCHC or the MCHC FARMACY program, please visit us on the web and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mchcky.