Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced a major milestone in its innovative Healthy Opportunities Pilot program with 10 people who are members of managed care successfully receiving a food service delivered through NC Medicaid Managed Care.

The first referral for service was sent by Mission Health Partners on behalf of an NC Medicaid Managed Care member in Transylvania County to Reinvestment Partners, a statewide nonprofit organization. Reinvestment Partners provided the beneficiary family with food vouchers for fruits and vegetables. This referral leveraged the new infrastructure, partnerships and payment mechanisms established as part of the Healthy Opportunities Pilots. The food vouchers are used by those with a diet or nutrition-related chronic illness to purchase fruits and vegetables from participating food retailers. Since the first vouchers were delivered, more than 20 members across the three pilot regions have enrolled and are eligible to receive services. NCDHHS expects these numbers to continue to grow.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Connecting North Carolinians to food, housing, employment and other resources keeps people healthy and is a smart investment for public dollars,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “I appreciate the tremendous efforts of our public and private partners to launch this pilot, and I’m confident this program will help identify the most effective strategies to improve the health and wellness of North Carolinians.”

Healthy Opportunities is the nation’s first comprehensive program to test evidence-based, non-medical interventions, which are designed to improve the health of Medicaid beneficiaries while reducing costs. These interventions include healthy meals and nutrition classes, transportation to grocery stores or job interviews, mold remediation and housing safety inspections, parenting curriculum and home visiting services, and linkages to legal supports.

The groundbreaking program creates a systematic approach to integrating and financing non-medical services that address food security, housing stability, transportation access and interpersonal safety into the delivery of health care. The pilots are testing the impact of providing select, evidence-based non-medical interventions to higher-risk people enrolled in NC Medicaid Managed Care.

“Healthy Opportunities is a key component of our innovative NC Medicaid Managed Care program,” said Dave Richard, deputy secretary for N.C. Medicaid. “By addressing the important challenges that occur outside of a doctor’s office, like access to food, we can have a real impact on the health of our beneficiaries.”

To be eligible for and receive pilot services, NC Medicaid Managed Care members must live in one of the three selected regions, have at least one qualifying physical or behavioral health condition and have one qualifying social risk factor. Detailed information on eligibility can be found in the pilot program’s frequently asked questions.

Beginning May 1, 2022, housing and transportation services will be available in the three regions; and on June 15, services that address toxic stress, such as parenting curriculums and home visiting services, will launch.

The goals of the pilots are to:

♦ Evaluate the effectiveness of select, evidence-based, non-medical interventions and the role of the Network Leads in improving health outcomes and reducing health care costs for high-risk NC Medicaid Managed Care members.

♦ Leverage evaluation findings to embed cost-effective interventions that improve health outcomes for those enrolled in the Medicaid program statewide, furthering the department’s goals for a sustainable Medicaid program.

♦ Support the sustainability of delivering the non-medical services identified as effective through the evaluation, including by strengthening the capabilities of Human Service Organizations and partnerships with health care payers and providers.

LEARN MORE

For more information about Healthy Opportunities Pilots, please visit www.ncdhhs.gov/about/department-initiatives/healthy-opportunities/healthy-opportunities-pilots.

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