• 37°

Healthstart awarded contract

HealthStart, a local organization funded by the Alabama Medicaid Agency, was recently awarded a two-year contract to continue its work with maternity care for District 8, which services Marengo, Sumter and Choctaw counties.

Headquartered at Bryan Whitefield Memorial Hospital, HealthStart was among a group of companies, doctors’ offices and hospitals that submitted bids to the Department of Purchasing at the Alabama Medicaid Agency in order to provide health services for the fourteen districts across Alabama.

According to Marcia Lankster, division director of Patient Care Services/ HealthStart, participants have to meet a laundry list of requirements in order to be considered a "responsive, responsible bidder."

After submitting the bid, the Alabama Medicaid Agency then determines if the parties involved meet eligibility.

“The lowest bidder from each district must meet all requirements before being awarded.

The lowest bid for district 8 was found ‘non-responsive,’ so HealthStart was awarded the contract in its place,” she said.

“The closing of area facilities has severely limited resources available to expectant mothers.

HealthStart tries to fill that void.

If the contract had been lost, it would have been a devastating blow to the community and the hospital,” Lankster added.

A bid consisted of an estimate for total patient care including prenatal visits, delivery, hospital bids, 60-day postpartum follow-up and high risk deliveries.

This amount is what is then considered by Alabama Medicaid.

A contract is awarded for two years and can be extended to three years by the Agency.

“Each group providing maternity care is expected to supply the full needs of each patient.

If a mother costs more than the estimation, then it is up to that agency to foot the remainder of her bills,” Lankster said.

HealthStart is funded by Medicaid with supplemental funding from private pay based on a sliding scale determined by income.

No one is excluded from services with this program.

Once a patient enters the program, she is then assisted by a nurse or social worker who helps her set up doctor’s visits and care.

The program also helps a patient get transportation to and from appointments.

Women in the program have the opportunity to see health care providers from 13 areas across East Mississippi and West Alabama.

If a doctor notices a potential high-risk problem, he or she notifies HealthStart who, in turn, seeks help from centers across Alabama capable of handling those problems.

Also, each woman must visit the care coordinator at HealthStart three times during the pregnancy to ensure that she remains on course to a healthy delivery.

“Our services don’t stop after delivery,” said Stacey Wilson, HealthStart coordinator.

“We give each woman a total psychosocial assessment to provide assistance in shelter, food, and transportation.”

Further, HealthStart extends services until the end of 60 days after the delivery day.

“Usually, ties extend beyond this day,” Wilson said.

“The patient develops a relationship with the HealthStart care coordinator and calls him or her instead of his or her doctor.”

‘With the initiation of the programs for assistance, maternity care has caused infant mortality rates to drop,” Lankster said.

Too, HealthStart has liaisons with other programs including Prenatal and Early Child Home Visit Program to help first-time teenage mothers learn parenting skills.

The program follows the participant for two years.

HealthStart is not solely focused on maternity care.

Another program offered involves comprehensive wellness under Preventive Health Education Program from Medicaid.

“This service is not based on bids.

It will always be around to service the area as a part of preventive medicine,” Lankster said.

For more information about HealthStart and the programs it offers, call (334) 287-2675 or

toll free 1-888-531-6262.