After battling allergies for two weeks, Rosie White finally got in to see a doctor on Monday.
The Fort Worth hairdresser was able to snag an appointment at the Viola Pitts/Como Health Center in west Fort Worth and went home with some antibiotics.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve been going here since my doctor retired 25 or 30 years ago,” White said of the publicly-funded health center in the JPS Health Network. “I don’t get sick very often but when I do, they’re always able to squeeze me in.”
But White, 62, wonders about what the future will bring.
She is self-employed, pays a mortgage and has raised two children. She said she’ll be self-sufficient for years to come but worries about those can’t take easily make it to the doctor and have no relatives to care for them.
30.5 Percentage Tarrant County’s senior population will increase between 2017 and 2025.
Her concerns pinpoint several of the key issues for the future of healthcare in Tarrant County, according a recent draft report by Health Management Associates. The report, which focuses on the needs for Tarrant County and the JPS Health Network, will be presented to a Citizens Blue Ribbon Committee meeting at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The committee is expected to make final recommendations sometime in the next year.
“The process has to drive this issue, but it will be less than 12 months,” said Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius.
While Maenius declined to put a deadline on spelling out Tarrant County’s long-term needs, he said the consultants and the committee are making headway. Focus groups and community forums have already been held.
Issues that emerged from the community forums included:
▪ Some speakers said the focus of JPS should be on “the needy” population that can’t afford to get healthcare elsewhere.
▪ Mental health services need to be expanded.
▪ Better child, adolescent and young adult services are needed, including early intervention.
▪ Lack of transportation options for patients, including difficulty in reaching John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, the county’s public hospital.
▪ A need for additional clinics to improve access. One concern is that some clinics are already at capacity.
“The goal here is how do we address healthcare in Tarrant County and what role does JPS play in that model?” Maenius said.
Tarrant County is getting older
One emerging topic is the aging population of Tarrant County.
Between 2017 and 2025, Tarrant County’s senior population ( age 65 and older) is projected to increase from 315,000 to 418,000, according to the United Way’s Area Agency on Aging.
I take care of myself but I have no one else. As I get older, it's getting harder for me.
Rosie White, JPS Connections patient
And those who are able to participate in the JPS Connection program for healthcare — anyone who is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level is eligible — will only keep growing.
For a one-person household, the income threshold to be eligible is $29,700.
The JPS Connection eligible population is expected to grow from 425,000 in 2017 to 621,000 in 2037, according to the Health Management Associates report.
“I’m more concerned about dementia than anything else right now,” said Don Smith, director of the United Way’s Area Agency on Aging. “We’ve got people living alone with Alzheimer’s and dementia right now.”
There’s a need, Smith said, to integrate medical care with social services.
Bond project in the future?
The JPS Health Network is operated by the Tarrant County Hospital District. About 36 percent of the district’s budget is derived from property tax revenue, while patient revenue makes up 41 percent and federal and state funding accounts for 17 percent. Another six percent of revenue comes from other categories.
In 2015, the Tarrant County Hospital District appeared to be headed toward an $809 million bond package that included plans for a new 10-story patient tower and a five-story psychiatric tower. The last JPS bond package was approved in 1985.
After opposition arose at four town hall meetings in 2015, the hospital district and Tarrant County Commissioners Court put off a bond election.
It’s possible that a new psychiatric hospital will be among the recommendations of the committee, Maenius said, but reducing the amount of any bond package is one of the goals.
Assistance could come from a newly created JPS Future Fund, which contains about $125 million that could be used to defray bond costs, Maenius said.
The report also said more collaboration with Tarrant County Public Health and JPS should be considered, including placing facilities together when possible.
Staff photographer Paul Moseley contributed to this report.