ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 8, 2012) -- Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) announced 15 grant awards, totaling $1.1 million, intended to help provide access to health care for more than 25,000 Marylanders in all regions of the state (see attached list).The CHRC grants targeted five priorities: (1) reducing infant mortality rates; (2) expanding dental care access for children; (3) boosting primary care capacity; (4) integrating behavioral health in the community; and (5) investing in health information technology. The Commission provided special emphasis this year on supporting programs that would help reduce minority health disparities and help prepare safety net providers as Maryland implements the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

During this session of the Maryland General Assembly, Lt. Governor Brown is championing the Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Reduction Act of 2012 (SB 234/HB 439) to address health disparities by creating an innovative pilot program for a series of geographically based Health Enterprise Zones (HEZs) in underserved communities. He is also continuing efforts to implement the ACA in Maryland by leading efforts to enact the Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012 (SB 238/HB 443). This legislation takes the next step in establishing the state’s Health Benefit Exchange, a transparent marketplace that will offer individuals and small employers high-quality, affordable private health plans that fit their needs at competitive prices.

“Maryland continues to be a national leader in health care because we understand that a healthy community is a more productive community,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “The CHRC grants will provide resources to local communities to improve health outcomes, support safety net providers, and provide critical care to our most vulnerable citizens. By taking steps to reduce health disparities and implement health care reform, we will reduce costs, expand access, and improve the quality of health care for all Marylanders.”

“The Commission is dedicated to supporting innovative and sustainable health care programs,” commented John A. Hurson, Chairman, Maryland Community Health Resources Commission. “These programs will expand access to affordable, high-quality health care services for underserved and special populations in our state.”

The mission of the CHRC is to expand capacity in Maryland’s health care infrastructure by awarding grants to community health resources such as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), local health departments, free clinics and other safety net providers that deliver primary, preventative, and specialty care services in the community. In addition to the 15 grants awarded this year, the CHRC has issued 78 grants over the last five years, totaling $21.6 million, and these grants have provided health care services to more than 96,500 low-income Marylanders, resulting in more than 295,000 patient visits.

The O’Malley-Brown Administration has tapped the CHRC to play a leading role in helping to implement the provisions of the Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Reduction Act. The CHRC will partner with DHMH and others to implement the initiative by awarding additional grant resources via a competitive request for proposal process and by leading performance measurement of the Health Enterprise Zones.

“It is critical that we build capacity to deliver health care services for the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who will gain access to health insurance coverage in 2014,” commented Frances B. Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The CHRC is a valuable partner in our efforts to expand access in the community as Maryland implements the Affordable Care Act.”