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The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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Community Based Health Center Voluntary Certification - Public Comment
December 12, 2012
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released for public comment revised criteria for the voluntary certification of Community Based Health Centers (CBHC), including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC).
Background: The Affordable Care Act will expand coverage to millions of Americans who are currently uninsured. In Maryland, an estimated 200,000 individuals will gain coverage through Medicaid, while 300,000 individuals will obtain private health insurance through the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange.
The goal is that this expanded coverage will lead to improved access to appropriate, high-value health care which will, in turn, have the net effect of improving population health and reducing overall health care spending. Translating coverage into improved population health and sustainable health care spending will require comprehensive and systematic engagement by safety net health care organizations, health care professionals and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
Maryland is fortunate to have a safety net system, comprised of 16 FQHCs operating more than 100 sites, 24 local health departments delivering services through multiple sites, and over 30 school-based health clinics and free clinics.  Historically, these different safety net providers were established to respond to specific, discrete needs. As a result, it is not uncommon for safety net providers to be working in close proximity of each other and operating within the broader health care delivery system but not working in a systematic, coordinated, or integrated way.
Even after 2014, these providers will continue to play an important role in providing access to care, but the way that care is provided will have to change to ensure that the care is sustainable, high quality, and part of a broader, community-based, and more integrated “system of care.” DHMH has recognized that developing this “system-ness” will require building more effective partnerships and the ability to better target available resources to need. DHMH also recognizes that providers are likely to be at different stages of readiness to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by health reform, and that a "one size fits all" approach to supporting these providers is unlikely to be effective.
Therefore, in order to effectively partner with providers and to meet them where they are, DHMH has proposed a voluntary certification program that will help assess provider readiness along a variety of dimensions that will be increasingly important with health reform, such as financial stability, accessibility to the community, the ability to demonstrate the provision of high quality care, and engagement in local public health partnerships.
The goal of this program would be to identify willing participants and to use the assessment results to identify appropriate programmatic, funding, and technical assistance opportunities.
Following this informal comment period ending January 12, 2013, DHMH will review the comments and determine whether to propose regulations for implementation. Comments may be submitted by mail to Raquel Samson, Director, Office of Primary Care Access, Health Systems and Infrastructure Administration, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 201 W. Preston St., Baltimore, MD 21201 or by email to
On August 6, 2012, DHMH requested public comment on a proposed voluntary certification program. To view the comments received and a revised proposal, click here.
To view the proposed certification criteria and definitions, click here.