Mascoma Health Clinic Up and Running but Needs More Patients

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, February 05, 2018

Canaan — Nearly six months after opening its doors, the Mascoma Community Health Center is about 400 new patients away from achieving financial stability, according to officials.

More than 1,100 people have registered to receive dental and health services at the faculty, which opened last June off of Route 4 in Canaan.

But that’s not quite enough to keep operations on a firm financial footing, according to Mike Samson, a member of the health center’s board of directors.

“We haven’t broke even yet,” said Samson, who is also Canaan’s town administrator. “We’ll feel a lot more comfortable when we break even.”

The health center should turn the corner toward profitability once it enrolls 1,500 patients, Samson said last week.

That benchmark could be met in April, he said, as anywhere between 120 and 140 people have filled out new patient packets each month.

The health center will need those new patients as it aims to become a one-stop shop to obtain medical, behavioral health and dental services within the Mascoma Valley. The nearly 13,000-square-foot building, which was completed with the help of a $3.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also contains space for a future pharmacy, X-ray unit and physical therapy practice.

Clinical Director Donna Ransmeier said she’s confident the clinic will be able to attract those new patients, pointing to a steady stream of new sign ups from both sides of the Connecticut River.

“We’ve had a nice response from people in the area willing to travel to see us,” she said.

The health center is attracting people for several reasons, including convenience and easy access to care, Ransmeier said.

The clinic currently accepts medical insurance from 40 companies, as well as Medicaid and Medicare, she said. And the dental practice takes insurance from five firms.

People have also taken advantage of a sliding scale fee system, which allows the health center to provide treatment to patients regardless of income or health insurance coverage status, Ransmeier said.

Between 5 and 6 percent of patients were using the sliding scale for medical services, according to the minutes from the November board of directors meeting. At the time, about 51 percent of dental patients were using the scale, which led the board to increase its minimum fee from $10 to $20.

“We’re seeing many more dental patients than we anticipated,” Samson said.

In January, the clinic saw a total of 185 dental patients and 255 medical patients, he said. About a quarter of those were on Medicaid or Medicare, Samson said.

Ransmeier predicted that people are also being attracted to the clinic as it’s expanded its offerings.

The health center just received federal approval to start a family planning program, which will offer patients preventative health services, sexually transmitted disease testing, fertility counseling, birth control and aid beginning a family.

“It’s really a nice grant and we’re really looking forward to getting those services out to people,” Ransmeier said, adding a maternal nurse is also expected to join the team to help provide care.

“It’s quite a broad spectrum grant and allows us to provide services to just about any income level,” she said.

Another new program at the center allows its staff to perform veteran disability checks, which re certifies veterans’ eligibility for care.

To help fund both of those programs, as well as others, the health center is searching for donations.

In 2017, the clinic received 39 donations totaling $151,000. The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation is also offering up to $50,000 in matching donations over the next month.

People can find out more about the health center or make a donation at mascomacommunityhealthcare.org

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.