The last eight months have been a back to the future adventure for Honor Martin, vice president of clinical services for Aspire of Western New York.
She started her career almost 30 years ago, spending her first decade in medicine at Health Care Plan.
“They were a staff model HMO and they did exactly what we we’re doing here. Everything – primary care, specialties, radiology, pharmacy – was under one roof.”
Martin spent five years as director of education and organizational development at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston before leaving in early 2014 to work for Aspire – a nonprofit founded in 1947 to treat, nurture and press helpful legislation for those with cerebral palsy.
Its mission expanded during the last 15 years to help those with a variety of special needs. The agency runs 45 group homes across the region as well as three health clinics: one on Oak Street in Buffalo and another on Lockport Road in Niagara Falls, which treat their traditional patients, and the Aspire of WNY Health Center at 7 Community Drive in Cheektowaga, which does the same – but expanded last December to offer of health and wellness services to anyone.
Other community health centers that once served more-specific patient populations have adopted similar models in recent years.
“If we can demonstrate that we’re able to take care of people that are so complex,” Martin said, “we certainly can care for complex people in the neighborhood.”
Martin holds bachelor’s degrees in English from Daemen College and nursing from Niagara University. She also has a master’s in eduction from NU. She and her husband, William, an English professor at Niagara, live in Lockport. They have a son, Brendan, and daughter, Meghan Killen.
Q. You’ve spent most of your career in outpatient care.
Better results start with primary care, how well we prevent disease, how well we keep people healthy.
Q. Why change to a community-based practice in Cheektowaga?
We wanted to accommodate Dr. Elizabeth O’Neill, who came to work with us and wanted to keep some of her 2,000 private patients. We decided “Here’s a great opportunity,” and there was an importance of doing this, especially with the shortage of physicians throughout Western New York right now.
Q. Can you talk about the center staff?
We have thee primary care doctors and three nurse practitioners, a nutritionist, a very busy podiatrist, three psychiatrists, one neurologist, and offer physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, as well as behavioral health. We have four clinical licensed social workers. We’re kind of a well-kept secret. A lot of people view us as an entity that cares for the complex disabled, but we’re very well equipped to manage any population.
Q. Can you talk about the big picture for the person who’s been going to the same doctor for 30 years? What might things look like over the next five or 10 years?
I think there will be an emphasis on convenience, one-stop shopping, the ability of a patient to access care and services under one umbrella.
Q. When was the tipping point here in Cheektowaga when you said, “Maybe we can expand our services?”
We were able to recruit more physicians to allow us to expand, but I think the real driver was the changing health care landscape. We saw an important need to become part of the community health system.
Q. Were family members bringing in loved ones telling you, “I wish you could take care of me?”
Absolutely. For a while, our specialty practices saw people from the outside who were not developmentally challenged or had complex disabilities. But when we looked at the needs even of the immediate community – we’re right next to a large pocket of neighborhoods within walking distance – we thought, “Here we are. Why can’t we extend our services?”
Q. Are there medical issues that spill beyond the range of special needs but are similar enough where someone can come in to your community health center and be comfortable about the care they receive?
Dr. O’Neill had a fairly large population of geriatric patients. She’s got a love for older patients. It was a great fit with our population. Another population that we’ve explored and would be absolutely on the ready to serve would be the veterans population. We have rehabilitative services, behavioral health services and primary health services. We can offer a lot of what would be replicated other places.
Q. What about insurance?
A lot of our patients are dual eligible, which is Medicare and Medicaid. We have contracts with all commercial carriers and third parties. You name it, we accept it.
Q. Who’s coming in besides your traditional patient base?
Anybody that wants. We have people who come in just to see a specialist. Maybe they’re post-surgical and want to see a physical therapist. We do pharmaceutical management for psychiatry, and we are one of the few health centers so blessed to have the amount of psychiatry we have with three providers here. There’s a need in this community and it’s just not being met.
Q. Are you starting to treat family members who’ve come here for years?
Yes, and employees. They never had the ability before, though we got many inquiries. They come in and see a lot of the people they take care of in the residences as well. That’s important. We would want our employees to trust the services we provide.
Q. What are your hours?
They are 8 to 4 weekdays. Two of our counselors see folks evenings. We are looking at instituting convenience hours, whether that be an evening or Saturdays. We want to make sure we’ve got the population to demonstrate the need.