Health Care Checkup: Two nonprofits merge, startups bring in funds

The Health Care Checkup, a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines, is sponsored by Heyen Wellness Therapies.

Crider Health Center will merge with Pathways Community Behavioral Healthcare. | Courtesy of Crider Health Center
Crider Health Center will merge with Pathways Community Behavioral Healthcare. | Courtesy of Crider Health Center

Taking the Pulse

Two health care nonprofits to merge

In difficult times for nonprofit health care providers, two Missouri nonprofits are merging in an attempt to give themselves an advantage. Crider Health Center in Wentzville and Pathways Community Behavioral Healthcare in Clinton are combining resources. The reason, according to officials with the organizations, is to improve their behavioral, dental and physical health services. The merged health services expect to serve 52,000 people each year, as well as 54,000 students through prevention and early intervention programs.

Crider will also join Pathways as part of the Compass Health Network, which lists 58 locations Missouri and Louisiana. The two organizations will have a combined staff of more than 2,000 people.

Health startups grabbing headlines for funding hauls

St. Louis-based BacterioScan, which makes a diagnostic tool that helps detect urinary tract infections, closed a round of Series A financing totaling $5 million. The company’s tool is scheduled to come to market in 2015.

Also in St. Louis, Cofactor Genomics, which works in DNA and RNA sequencing, received a $161,000 grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH). The grant will go toward developing a kit to help isolate circular RNAs in the nervous system, which are critical for brain development and can help with spotting psychiatric disorders. Cofactor CEO Jarret Glasscock said the NIH’s early investment could lead to an additional $1 million early next year.

In nearby St. Charles, SmartCare Consultants, which makes tracking monitors for seniors, received $100,000 from private investors, bringing its total for the year so far to $300,000. The company hopes to raise $1.2 million and have its product in 500 rooms at senior living facilities by the end of 2014.

Wait times climb for Missouri Medicaid call centers

Missouri’s Medicaid assistance call center is under scrutiny after reports emerged of excessive wait times and little to no guidance from caseworkers during signup. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the average wait time at the contracted Jefferson City call center in July 2014 was 17 minutes, compared to three minutes in July of last year. The longest wait time this July was 37 minutes, up from 18 minutes in July 2013. The call center’s contract with the state requires callers be connected with a representative or placed on hold within three rings or 20 seconds. Additionally, the contract stipulates callers cannot wait on hold longer than six minutes before reaching a caseworker. The Missouri Department of Social Services requested a plan from the call center’s owner, Mississippi-based YoungWilliams, outlining immediate corrective changes due this week.

Behind the Number I: $1.5 million

The amount of money seven health centers in Missouri will receive from the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Affordable Care Act. The money is intended to go specifically toward improvements and renovations of facilities. All of the recipients are centers working in underserved communities.

Behind the Number II: $11

The amount home health care workers in Missouri are hoping to earn per hour if their wage negotiations succeed. Workers currently earn $8.60 an hour, though their employers receive $15.56 per hour from Medicaid for each hour worked. The union for home health care workers is currently asking Gov. Jay Nixon to step in on the negotiations with the Quality Home Care Council, which sets the minimum wage. The union’s collective bargaining efforts were already weakened earlier this year by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the home health care workers union in Illinois, run under a system similar to Missouri’s, could not collect dues for collective bargaining use from non-members.

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