Greater Seacoast Community Health lives and breathes our vision of removing barriers so that everyone has access to healthy living. The past year demonstrated that even in the face of fear, social upheaval and a pandemic, we are an unstoppable team in pursuit of this vision. The year 2020 not only called on us to deliver care to our communities in a time of crisis, but demanded that we take care of each other like never before. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by COVID-19, and we are enormously grateful to our own professionals who risked their health to keep us all safe.
Our resilience, dedication and adaptability come from our almost 300 employees — Greater Seacoast Community Health is our people. When the pandemic hit, we acted swiftly to launch phone and online access to medical, dental, mental-health, recovery, social work, parent education and family-support services. Later, we launched a Learning Center where employees’ school-aged children could learn and laugh in a safe and supervised setting while their parents bravely delivered care.
We had a strong year in spite of the pandemic. Medical, dental and behavioral health visits dropped by only 10% from 2019, despite limitations on in-person services during most of 2020. We provided food to more women, infants and children through the WIC nutrition program than last year. At a time when many dental practices shut down entirely, we remained open to the community for emergency oral health care and teledental care. And we rolled out the Kinship Navigation program to support grandparents and other relatives caring for children, often due to parents’ substance misuse.
We were fortunate that in recognition of the essential work health centers like ours do, we were awarded $1.4 million in grants earmarked for COVID response, as well as many generous donations from local supporters. These helped offset the loss in patient revenues and the costs of instituting new safety measures and building capacity to provide virtual services.
During times of great uncertainty, we remain committed to taking care of each other and to equitable health care access. We have seen that, now more than ever, what we do matters — it matters to the well-being of our employees, our patients and our community. We couldn’t do this without your support and shared dedication to our mission.
Responding to the Health Crisis of the Century
Responsible for the emergency preparedness of Strafford County, the Strafford County Public Health Network is a key participant in one of the largest and most critical public-health initiatives of the past century. Working with State officials, and partnering with the Seacoast Public Health Network for a regional response, the network has been a consistent source of accurate and timely information and a central voice in planning and executing New Hampshire’s response to COVID-19. The network is based in Somersworth and is a program of Greater Seacoast Community Health.
More recently, the team has coordinated pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics, while still managing annual flu vaccine clinics. They adjusted operations to fit safety regulations, outlined by the CDC and WHO, and recruited hundreds of volunteers to help get vaccinations to thousands of first responders, members of vulnerable populations, teachers, and health-care workers. Sarina Sim, LPN, is shown here preparing a vaccine.
The Rise of Telemedicine
The pandemic propelled adaptation to new realities and rapid integration of creative ways, including teledentistry, to deliver health care to our communities. Telehealth visits were key, allowing patients to connect to providers safely and accessibly via phone and video. The IT team and other staff created a smooth system for telehealth operations, minimizing disruptions to health-care delivery. Providers and patients adapted well and benefited from the new mode of delivery. Telehealth had been on the wish list of many patients and providers for years; it’s a rare silver lining of the pandemic that these services are now reimbursable and thus sustainable. Family Nurse Practitioner Paige Wilder, APRN, NP-C, is pictured.
Kids Learning, Parents Working
As schools announced plans to go remote last summer, concerns mounted about the impact on employees’ well-being and availability for work. With teamwork and creativity, we responded by adding a “Learning Center.” Rooms at Goodwin Community Health were repurposed to provide space for the center, and Parent Education Manager Patrice Baker, M. Ed., designed the program. Pandemic-related grant funds enabled us to supervise and support employees’ children as they engaged in remote-learning activities and classes. Thirteen staff members from three locations brought their children to the center.
The Learning Center has been a total game-changer for my family, says Natalie Blough, RN. It has allowed me and my husband to work full-time while my kids participate in their remote learning. It’s helping me make real life work, in a world where that felt impossible.
Connecting the Recovery Community
For people in recovery from substance use disorder, frequent and regular support is crucial. When the pandemic hit, SOS Recovery Community Organization pivoted quickly to replace the in-person support normally offered at its recovery centers in Hampton, Dover and Rochester. In partnership with recovery organizations in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington State, SOS offered more than 65 online recovery meetings per week, including some focused on families, mothers, fathers, women and the LGBTQ+ population. More than 350,000 people from 32 countries attended in 2020. SOS’s Innovations in Recovery Conference in October, pictured here, also went online. To help more people in recovery, SOS is moving its Rochester recovery center to a larger facility and plans to open a center within the new Families First location in Portsmouth this fall.
NH's First CHC Residents
Our Somersworth location is the first community health center (CHC) in New Hampshire to serve as a professional outpatient home for a physician residency program. The program, which adds four physicians to the team of family-medicine providers in Somersworth, is a result of a new partnership with Portsmouth Regional Hospital’s new Graduate Medical Education program. The launch of the residency program distinguishes us among community health centers as a teaching environment, which we expect will attract more doctors to the area. Pictured here are resident physicians Wesley Phillips and Matthew Nagelschmidt.
Gratitude for Volunteers
In a normal year, volunteers donate several thousand hours of office help, child care, medical care and more to support our programs. While 2020 was different as most volunteers had to stay away for safety reasons, some still found ways to help. Bob Andelman, MD, (pictured) continued to see Medication-Assisted Recovery patients in virtual visits from his home and gave even more time to help with the mobile recovery clinics added last spring. VolunteerNH honored “Dr. Bob” in their Spirit of NH Awards last year! Psychiatrist Amy Feitelson, MD, volunteered her time once a week for remote psychiatric evaluations. Meanwhile, Barry Linscott took on a new COVID-19 prevention role, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at Goodwin Community Health. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization. They are considered heroes in any given year. This year their support meant more than ever.
A New Home for Families First
In early 2020, our Board of Directors voted to relocate Families First to a larger and more visible building off Lafayette Road in Portsmouth. The new space will offer additional medical exam rooms and dental operatories, group treatment for people with substance use disorders, an SOS Recovery Community Center, and an on-site public pharmacy. The building will also improve privacy and safety for patients and staff and may serve as a host site to the new family-practice residency program described above. Pictured at the construction site are honorary capital campaign co-chairs Geoffrey Clark, MD, and Martha Fuller Clark, with CEO Janet Laatsch.
Don Chick Photography
We thank the individuals, families, businesses, cities, towns and foundations that made financial contributions to support our operations in 2020. Our programs and services are made possible with the help of our generous supporters. They share our passion for community health, and for that we are grateful.
This list recognizes donors who gave $1,000 or more in 2020.
This list recognizes individuals who have made planned gifts to sustain the health of our community.
To deliver innovative, compassionate, integrated health services and support that are accessible to all in our community, regardless of ability to pay.
To provide everyone in our community an opportunity to live a long and healthy life.
Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Collaboration, Excellence