BALTIMORE, MD— The Maryland Department of Health has been awarded a one-year, $699,987 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support statewide efforts to improve health equity by expanding telehealth services in family planning and preventive care service sites.
MDH will use the funds through May 31, 2023, to provide telehealth capacity-building training and technical assistance to 11 local health departments and three non-profit family planning clinics, thereby expanding access to family planning and preventive services appointments in sites throughout Maryland.
MDH’s Maryland Family Planning Program (MFPP) was one of only 31 programs chosen nationally to receive an HHS Title X National Family Planning Services Telehealth Program grant. This effort supports MFPP’s mission to increase accessibility to reproductive health by establishing, enhancing and promoting high-quality, comprehensive family planning telehealth in vulnerable communities where barriers to care persist–including the lack of transportation and concerns of COVID-19 transmission.
MFPP provides benefits and services to approximately 64,000 eligible low-income residents annually across 62 sites.
“The expansion of telehealth in the state will further expand access for women and men to receive essential family planning and preventive health services,” said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan. “This funding will not only strengthen the capacity to reach clients and patients where they are, using phones, computers, and other digital devices, it will help us accelerate outreach to residents, encouraging them to get back on track with care and screenings they may have put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When telehealth services are widely available and easy to access, residents will likely feel more comfortable making and keeping appointments.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 40.9% of U.S. adults avoided medical care during the pandemic because of concerns about COVID-19.
This project will roll out in three phases. MDH will begin by assessing existing telehealth resources in local health departments and family planning sites, identifying needs, barriers and opportunities to enhance services. The collected data will be used to plan and implement a virtual telehealth training and technical assistance program for participating sites. After the training and technical assistance program, MDH will disseminate a comprehensive telehealth toolkit to the 62 MFPP sites, 24 local health departments and all family planning service sites in Maryland.
MDH will partner with Planned Parenthood of Maryland — an established telehealth service provider — to provide training and technical assistance.
Additional information about efforts to improve family planning services is available at MDH’s Maryland Family Planning Program page.