May 24, 2022

Supporting Rural and Behavioral Health Providers in Pennsylvania

In the midst of a behavioral health crisis or a cancer diagnosis, traveling to a medical facility outside of the community – sometimes hours away from home – for care is the last hurdle a patient needs. But in rural communities, like Huntingdon, Pennsylvania where integrated care is lacking and approximately 96% of oncology services for area residents are provided at facilities outside of the county, this is often the case. So, when the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) can provide the necessary capital to expand access to care and help providers build capacity, we jump at the chance.

Penn Highlands in Huntingdon (PH Huntingdon) is a rural safety-net hospital and part of the Penn Highlands Healthcare (PHH) regional health system, which serves 39 counties. PH Huntingdon provides inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care services to residents in Huntingdon County and surrounding areas. The center is located in a designated Medically Underserved Area and is designated as a Sole Community Hospital (SCH) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a program created to maintain access to necessary health services for Medicare beneficiaries in isolated communities.

After partnering with PHH to expand its behavioral health capacity in DuBois, Pennsylvania in 2021, PCDC and Penn Highlands recently partnered again to renovate their current facility to expand behavioral health and oncology services. PHH’s expanded in-patient behavioral health capacity will be coordinated with partnering area primary care providers, thereby completing the county’s integrated primary care initiative partially financed through an operating grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The expansion also adds office space for staff and family waiting room for patients’ families. The new infusion/oncology suite will increase its infusion/oncology units from seven to 16 chairs and will allow more patients to receive treatment closer to home. The completed project also creates new jobs, adding 26 new staff to the hospital, including 2 physicians, 8 behavioral health providers, 2 social workers, 1 care coordinator, and 10 part-time positions. PCDC allocated $10 million of New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) towards the $11.7 million project.

“This expansion will allow PH Huntingdon to provide necessary behavioral health and oncological treatment to an isolated and vulnerable community,” noted Joseph Myers [pictured], President and CEO of PH Huntingdon. “Access to care is important for these patients and their families, especially for these essential lifesaving services.”

“The Primary Care Development Corporation looks forward to the groundbreaking at Penn Highlands Huntingdon,” said William O’Brien, PCDC’s Managing Director of Capital Investment. “We believe these new units will make an impact in providing vital health services for this community.”