The Alliance began back in 2000 as a committee of the Town Council. It was charged with finding less expensive options for the health insurance that the Town provided for its employees. The committee consisted of a local family practice physician, two members of the Council and several town residents. That committee, formally called the “Scituate Health Plan Committee”, settled on the concept of Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs), which had been established, but seldom used, by the IRS. The original MSAs had so many restrictions on them that they were difficult to use.
The Health Plan Committee soon realized that they could develop a complete plan which included the MSAs and a local health care facility which could provide most of the health care needs of the community. They also realized that they could develop a novel concept and carve out primary care services from the plan and offer these services at a very low cost. A complete package like this did not exist anywhere in the United States. The plan would be based on a concept called “Population Based Primary Care”. This concept basically says that most of the health care needs of a local population can be provided locally in the form of primary care services, and that one local facility can be charged with providing these services.
Because a project like this had never been done before, and to remove any liabilities from the Town, the committee disbanded and formed a non-profit corporation under IRS 501(C) guidelines. This corporation became the “Scituate Health Alliance” (SHA). There were two hurdles to overcome. One was that no insurance company wanted to write the high deductible policy that was required by the IRS to have a MSA. The other was the financing needed to open a local health facility. Little by little, through fundraising and some small grants and donations, the Alliance was able to fund two programs – the Scituate Health Access Program and the Scituate Dental Access Program. These programs provide primary health and dental services for low to moderate income Scituate residents who have no health or dental insurance or insurance that does not cover primary care. A substantial grant from the Gregson Foundation, through the Rhode Island Foundation, has allowed the SHA to expand its coverage to many Scituate residents. The Alliance has since hired a part time nurse who works with volunteer student nurses under a nurse supervisor from the Rhode Island College School of Nursing to coordinate the programs, screenings and clinics that the SHA provides for the community. The SHA conducts Flu Shot Clinics, health screenings and informational programs.
In 2008 the Scituate Ambulance Corps joined with the Scituate Health Alliance to provide even more services to the residents of Scituate. The availability of the Ambulance Corps facility made it possible for the Scituate Health Alliance to begin providing Child Birth Education classes for mothers to be in Scituate. This program began in February 2009. In the Fall of 2016 the Health Alliance partnered with WellOne Primary Medical and Dental Care to open the first ever Neighborhood Health Station. The Scituate Neighborhood Health Station is a new concept for providing primary health care. The Health Station is a community oriented provider of primary health, dental and behavioral health services as well as other related services to the people of Scituate, RI and is charged with improving the health of the community as a whole. The Scituate Health Alliance programs are run through and in conjunction with the Scituate Neighborhood Health Station. In August of 2017 the Scituate Neighborhood Health Station hired a part time Nurse to coordinate the health needs of the people of Scituate. The Scituate Health Alliance will eventually fulfill its goal of establishing the full “Scituate Health Plan”.
John Marchant, President
Scituate Health Alliance