A pilot project has been announced that plans to improve health outcomes in rural Missouri communities. It’s a collaborative effort between the Missouri Department of Social Services and the MO HealthNet Division.

The Transformation of Rural Community Health (ToRCH) project focuses on addressing social care challenges that impact residents’ ability to maintain their health and manage chronic conditions.

“(It’s) a groundbreaking initiative that empowers and encourages rural communities to collaborate to address healthcare-related social needs among their Medicaid population, with a focus on driving better health outcomes,” said Robert Knodell, Missouri Department of Social Services Director.

One key focus of the project is to tackle social determinants of health that influence overall wellbeing – safe housing, transportation, access to healthy foods, and physical activity opportunities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explained that these needs influence the conditions where people are born, grow, learn, work, play, worship, and age.

“For too long, our payment systems have failed to reward hospitals for efforts to address some of the root causes of poor health,” said Kirk Mathews, MHD Chief Transformation Officer, “The ToRCH program allows hospitals to receive payment for proactively addressing issues that contribute to poor health outcomes. Under this model, hospitals are empowered to truly be in the ‘healthcare’ business in addition to the ‘sick care’ business.”

Six rural hospitals were selected last June as part of the pilot project, in Salem, Clinton, Sedalia, Rolla, Bolivar, and Richmond. The funding allows them to act as community hubs.

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