The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education tabs Hart to lead graduate and undergraduate learner experience

Ann Hart, M.S., CRC, of Scranton, has been named director of the Graduate and Undergraduate Medical Education Experience at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

In this role, Hart will be responsible for the development, implementation, and quality improvement of programs and policies that will expand resident, fellow, and student wellness and the promotion of a healthy environment for all learners. She will also be responsible for the deployment and oversight of mental health and wellness initiatives that will benefit residents, fellows, and medical students as they navigate the demands of a rigorous medical school program. Hart will provide consultation and conduct mental health and wellness screenings at learner sites based on customized risk assessment and wellness plans.

Ann Hart, M.S., CRC,

Overall, more than 230 resident physicians are enrolled in The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s five residency and three fellowship programs.

Educated in Northeast Pennsylvania, Hart received a Bachelor of Science degree in applied behavioral science from Misericordia University and a Master of Science degree in rehabilitation counseling from The University of Scranton. In addition, Hart has an Associate of Science degree in criminal justice counseling from Lackawanna College, and holds certifications as a rehabilitation counselor, alcohol and drug counselor, and an addictions counselor.

Prior to joining The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, Hart worked as a primary counselor at Geisinger Marworth in Waverly, a mobile therapist and behavioral consultant for the Youth Advocate Program in Dunmore, and as a direct care professional at St. Joseph’s Center in Scranton. She also has an extensive history of working with health care providers in therapeutic settings.

Active in the local community, Hart volunteers with the St. Joseph Center’s Challengers baseball and soccer teams, the Friends of the Poor food distribution program, and facilitates relapse process seminars on addiction for The Recovery Bank, a peer-driven recovery support center in Scranton.

The Wright Center awarded trio of grants from city of Scranton for pandemic-related health and wellness activities

The Wright Center for Community Health recently received three grant awards from the city of Scranton as part of a distribution of federal funds to promote residents’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scranton awarded a total of about $1 million in wellness grants to nearly two-dozen area nonprofits. City officials focused this round of grant giving on three categories: drug overdose prevention, behavioral health and violence prevention, and wellness.

The Wright Center – a Scranton-based provider of primary health care and preventive services – is active in all three of the targeted categories and was chosen to receive a combined $145,000 in grant support. The organization will inject those public resources into three ongoing programs to benefit patients, health care providers, and the larger community.

The first award, to be used for overdose and prevention programs, will enable The Wright Center for Community Health to further engage community partners and patients in the services of its state-designated Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence. A portion of the $50,000 grant will provide community training on the topics of substance use disorder, medication-assisted treatment, and stigma surrounding addiction. Among the intended recipients of the educational sessions are law enforcement professionals, first responders, and government officials. This grant also will assist with harm reduction and long-term recovery support services in the region, which aim to reduce fatal overdoses.

The second award of $50,000 will be used to enhance The Wright Center for Community Health’s existing resiliency and wellness programming. Its Lifestyle Medicine service line will be integrated more fully into primary health care services, with the intent of engaging more high-risk patients in programs designed to help them positively adjust their behaviors. A prime focus will be on treating obesity as a chronic disease that contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, cancer, and overall premature death.

The third award, in the amount of $45,000, will underwrite The Wright Center’s participation in a training program conducted by the New York-based Sanctuary Institute to promote employee wellness and create a supportive, trauma-informed environment for the benefit of the organization’s workforce, patients, and the broader community. The institute’s training model is seen by many as a needed antidote to the intensified pressure on health care workers and others brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scranton’s mayor announced the wellness grant distributions at a news conference on Nov. 22. The funds are part of $68.7 million that Scranton had received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to address the pandemic’s economic and health-related fallout on city residents.

Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak

All applications were reviewed by the city, including by its public health coordinator, Dr. Rachna Saxena, and compliance consultants from Anser Advisory to ensure that organizations were not receiving duplicate federal benefits, per the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Applications were also reviewed for project sustainability, service to city residents, and more.

“The thoughtful and generous allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds by Scranton City Council will support our mission-driven efforts to improve the health and well-being of the patients and communities we humbly serve,” said Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, president and CEO of The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education.

“Thanks to our local and federal officials,” she said, “these resources will help us to expand and augment our ongoing efforts to address the opioid epidemic and empower recovery, our resiliency and wellness programming, and trauma-informed training for our governing board, executive management, health care providers, interprofessional learners, and patients.”

The Wright Center for Community Health operates a network of primary care practices in Northeast Pennsylvania, three located in the city, providing access to affordable, nondiscriminatory, high-quality services including medical, dental, and behavioral health care. The nonprofit enterprise also maintains an administrative and educational hub in Scranton’s South Side neighborhood.

For more information, visit TheWrightCenter.org.

The Wright Center for Community Health receives HRSA recognition for model of care that prioritizes quality improvements and patient experience

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently awarded The Wright Center for Community Health with its Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition.

The recognition is given annually to health centers that embrace the PCMH model of care, which prioritizes a commitment to continuous quality improvement and a patient-centered approach to care.

With the addition of this recognition, or badge, The Wright Center has received a total of three HRSA badges this year through the federal agency’s Community Health Quality Recognition program.

The Wright Center also previously earned the 2022 Advancing Health Information Technology for Quality badge and the newly established Addressing Social Risk Factors to Health badge.

HRSA annually reviews health centers’ performance data and bestows badges on federal Health Center Program awardees and Look-Alikes that have made notable quality improvement achievements in the areas of health equity, access, quality, and use of health information technology. HRSA encourages the recipients of its badges to prominently display them on the health centers’ websites and elsewhere, as outward symbols of the centers’ leadership in those key areas.

The Wright Center previously adopted the PCMH model of care, with several of its primary care practices in Northeast Pennsylvania being formally evaluated by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and receiving PCMH recognition.

Under the PCMH model of care, a patient is engaged in a direct relationship with a chosen physician or another provider who serves in a leadership role and coordinates a cooperative team of health care professionals. The leader takes responsibility for the comprehensive integrated care provided to the patient, and advocates and arranges appropriate care with other qualified providers, specialists and community resources as needed.

Research has shown that PCMHs can improve the quality of care and the patient experience, while also reducing health care costs.

The Wright Center for Community Health, which in 2019 became a HRSA-designated Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike, currently operates a network of primary care practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties.

The Wright Center provides safety-net, comprehensive primary and preventive health services – including medical, dental, behavioral health, addiction and recovery, and infectious disease services – that cover the lifespan from pediatrics to geriatrics. A special emphasis is placed on medically underserved populations, and no patient is turned away due to an inability to pay.

Wright Center for Community Health holding ‘Know Before You Go’ COVID-19 mobile testing clinics for holiday season

TWC Driving Better Health (3)

The Wright Center for Community Health is holding several “Know Before You Go” mobile testing clinics in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season. The Driving Better Health mobile medical unit will offer coronavirus testing for people who are symptomatic from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at clinics in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. Please go to TheWrightCenter.org/events for more information.

The Wright Center for Community Health is holding several “Know Before You Go” mobile testing clinics in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season.

The Wright Center will utilize its Driving Better Health mobile medical unit to offer coronavirus testing for people who are symptomatic from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the following clinics:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 23: Hawley Practice, 103 Spruce St., Hawley
  • Tuesday, Nov. 29: Hawley Practice, 103 Spruce St., Hawley
  • Thursday, Dec. 22: Wilkes-Barre Practice, 169 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre  
  • Thursday, Dec. 29: Wilkes-Barre Practice, 169 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre
  • Friday, Dec. 30: Clarks Summit Practice, 1145 Northern Boulevard, South Abington Twp.

“Our special testing clinics are being utilized to remind the public about the importance of testing, especially if you are visiting family and friends for the holidays,” said Dr. Jignesh Y. Sheth, chief medical officer for The Wright Center for Community Health. “We need to work together to minimize the spread and protect high-risk populations from COVID-19, especially as we get further into cold and flu season.” 

Driving Better Health enables The Wright Center for Community Health to deliver high-quality, nondiscriminatory health care where patients live and work in Northeast Pennsylvania. COVID-19 testing is available for patients of all ages. A guardian must accompany patients who are younger than 17. Walk-up appointments are welcome, but appointments are encouraged for the convenience of patients. Please go to TheWrightCenter.org to use the express online scheduling system or call 570-230-0019 to schedule an appointment.

Guests are asked to observe public safety measures, including masking and social distancing, during the testing clinics, and bring identification and insurance cards. 

The Wright Center for Community Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike. Community health centers offer high-quality, affordable and nondiscriminatory safety-net health care services and are the largest providers of primary care for the nation’s most vulnerable and medically underserved populations. Prevalent in both urban and rural settings, community health centers are located in regions with high-poverty rates and/or low numbers of private or nonprofit health care systems and hospitals. 

For more information about The Wright Center for Community Health, go to TheWrightCenter.org.

The Robert H. Spitz Foundation grant supports The Wright Center for Community Health’s Healthy MOMS program

The Wright Center for Community Health received a $5,000 grant from the Robert H. Spitz Foundation in support of the collaborative Healthy MOMS Helping MOMS Out of Poverty program. The grant helps participants with the initial costs of paying for security deposits, rent, and utility bills so they can secure safe housing. Participating in the ceremonial check presentation, from left, are Frank Caputo, grants and communications coordinator, Scranton Area Community Foundation; Maria Kolcharno, director of addiction services and a leader of the Healthy MOMS program, and Marcella Garvin, lead case manager, Healthy MOMS program, The Wright Center for Community Health, and Brittany Pagnotti, communications manager, Scranton Area Community Foundation.

The Wright Center for Community Health was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the Robert H. Spitz Foundation in support of the collaborative Healthy Maternal Opiate Medical Support program (Healthy MOMS) that focuses on helping pregnant women and new mothers overcome addiction and embrace a life in recovery.

The grant will support working mothers in the Helping MOMS Out of Poverty (HOP) program who need help with initial costs of paying for security deposits, rent and utility bills to secure safe housing, an important step in maintaining their recovery and independently caring for their children. 

Healthy MOMS participants are offered a variety of necessary services that include medication-assisted treatment and addiction services, counseling, primary health care, OB-GYN care, parenting tips, legal advice and a range of other support programs. The program promotes the well-being of both mom and newborn, ideally engaging them in wrap-around services until the child turns two years old. 

Launched in 2018, the program serves Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. To date, Healthy MOMS has supported more than 300 mothers and 193 babies.

“We are grateful to the Robert H. Spitz Foundation for their financial support and the various community partnerships that enable our program to help two generations in our communities,” said Maria Kolcharno, the director of addiction services and a leader of the Healthy MOMS program at The Wright Center for Community Health. “The lack of affordable, safe housing continues to be a challenge for women enrolled in Healthy MOMS. This grant will help women in our program afford safe housing in which to raise their children and secure their future.” 

The Robert H. Spitz Foundation awards grants to registered nonprofit organizations that support initiatives and programs serving the residents of Lackawanna County and Northeast Pennsylvania. Among the foundation’s four priority areas are “programs that aim to break the cycle of poverty, remove economic barriers, and encourage independence in adults and children through access to safe, affordable housing, transportation, education and other important issues.”

To date, the Robert H. Spitz Foundation has distributed more than $4.6 million in grants to the community. The Scranton Area Community Foundation has served as administrator of the foundation since 2016. Learn more at safdn.org. 

For more information about the Healthy MOMS program, call 570-955-7821 or visit HealthyMOMS.org

The Wright Center’s successful vaccination project spotlighted at White House summit

An employee of The Wright Center for Community Health attended a summit held Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the White House complex, presenting a summary of the organization’s success in vaccinating certain vulnerable populations against COVID-19.

Melissa Bonnerwith, project manager for public health education and AmeriCorps VISTA at The Wright Center, delivered a poster presentation during the “Summit on COVID-19 Equity and What Works Showcase.”

The event was organized by The White House Office for COVID-19 Response. Participants included U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other high-ranking federal health officials.

The Wright Center was among a “select group of community organizations” invited to send a representative to the summit to “highlight evidence-based programs and initiatives that have moved the needle on equitable COVID-19 outcomes,” according to organizers.

Bonnerwith shared insights gained by The Wright Center as a result of its months-long involvement in a grant-funded Community Vaccine Ambassador Project, which was funded by the CDC. The pandemic-fighting project was conducted in partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Only 15 health centers and organizations in the nation were selected for the Vaccine Ambassador Project. Those organizations, located in 12 states, received grant funding to focus on administering coronavirus vaccines to people in populations of special concern, including individuals with substance use disorders and individuals experiencing homelessness.

The Wright Center’s team members exceeded expectations and provided about 1,600 vaccine doses during the project period to people with substance use disorders and more than 180 doses to people experiencing homelessness.

Melissa Bonnerwith, project manager of public health education and AmeriCorps VISTA at The Wright Center, delivered the poster presentation during the “Summit on COVID-19 Equity and What Works Showcase” at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The CDC asked Bonnerwith to co-present at this week’s summit with Kimberly Chiaramonte, a senior project officer with the Homeless Council.

Bonnerwith, who oversaw The Wright Center’s grant project, attributed its effectiveness largely to the ability of its “vaccine ambassadors” – consisting of three community health workers and three certified recovery specialists – to build rapport and trust with people in the populations of focus. In some instances, it took multiple conversations over several encounters with an individual before that person would decide to roll up a sleeve and get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The project also relied on the strategic use of The Wright Center’s mobile medical vehicle, which was deployed into the community 79 times as part of this grant initiative, Bonnerwith said. She also credited the involvement of The Wright Center’s strong community partners. Among those critical to the success of the project were the Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs for Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties; the Community Intervention Center and St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, both in Scranton; and The Hazleton Integration Project and La Casa Dominicana, both in Hazleton.

Melissa Bonnerwith, right, project manager of public health education and AmeriCorps VISTA at The Wright Center, co-presented the research poster at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building with Kimberly Chiaramonte, a senior project officer with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council

The Wright Center’s patient data show higher rates of vaccination among the two populations of focus during the grant project, which incentivized participation with retail gift cards, than in the months prior to the project.

“We used targeted interventions, and ultimately saw that our rate of vaccination among people experiencing homelessness doubled and our rate among people with substance use disorder increased 34 percent,” said Bonnerwith. “That’s pretty exciting.”

Since the time COVID-19 vaccines first became available in December 2020, The Wright Center’s providers have administered more than 48,000 vaccine doses.

The Wright Center for Community Health, headquartered in Scranton, was designated in 2019 as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike. Today, it operates a growing network of primary care practices that provide high-quality, affordable and nondiscriminatory care to patients from five counties in Northeast Pennsylvania.

It is affiliated with The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, the nation’s largest Health Resources and Services Administration-funded Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Safety Net Consortium.