As Director of the Innovations for the Underserved Program for the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), Margaret Laws oversees the CHCF program-related mission investing initiative. For example, CHCF funded a demonstration project that used text messaging to keep kids with asthma out of the emergency departments. However, when grant funding ran out, these programs couldn’t expand or sometimes even continue.

CHCF’s investments are geared to improving healthcare delivery in underserved communities with rural low income Medicaid beneficiaries. This past year, the focus has been on health IT and service model innovation that would be able to help these beneficiaries.

Next year, the goal is to place a special focus on mental and behavioral healthcare, dual eligibles, and people with complex chronic conditions. However, CHCF doesn’t support the development of devices, biotech or pharmaceuticals because they feel that don’t have experience in those areas.

CHCF’s goal is to work with promising companies that will have an impact in the safety net and help these companies through the early stages to be able to attract more traditional financial investors. CHCF provides the capital, relationships and the know-how in the operations and financing of safety net institutions so that a company can take on the new market.

Last year, the Foundation made their first co-investment with the Kresge Foundation in Direct Dermatology. This is a company provides dermatology specialty care at an affordable price to safety net providers through telemedicine.

The funds provided are helping Direct Dermatology take their service to more Medicaid programs, community health centers, and other providers serving low income population around the state and country. Direct Dermatology has made it possible for people who were waiting 6 to 12 months for a consultation to get consultations in 24 to 48 hours,

This year on June 27 CHCF issued an RFP to be funded out of CHCF’s “Better Chronic Disease Care (BCDC) program. The program’s initiatives are to:

  • Foster partnerships among insurers, hospice, or palliative care providers in the state
  • Develop initiatives to increase access to palliative care through health insurance programs and products
  • Test different approaches to providing and reimbursing community-based palliative care
  • Identify models that could be scaled and spread throughout the state.

These objectives will be pursued through a planning grant phase and potentially an implementation grant phase. Up to 10 planning grants of up to $50,000 per partnership will be awarded through this RFP process with RFPs due August 8, 2014.