Cherry Street Health Services CMO Plans to Enhance Health Center, Integrate Care

By Natasha Robinson, MPCA Communications Specialist

Access to integrated care is important to Cherry Street Health Services’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Platt. That’s why he’s so proud of the Durham Clinic at the Heart of the City Health Center in Grand Rapids. The clinic integrates medicine and behavioral health and helps patients manage chronic conditions.

Dr. Tom Platt, Chief Medical Officer, Cherry Street Health Services

Dr. Tom Platt, Chief Medical Officer, Cherry Street Health Services

“It’s a model for the future for integrating care for people with chronic conditions,” Platt said. “I got to see it from the beginning, starting with 20 patients, and it has grown to 950 patients. We are asked a lot about that particular program.”

Platt grew up in the Midwest and then attended Brown University in Rhode Island. A three-year public health service obligation led him to work in a Health Center in Rhode Island, where he stayed for seven years. His work led him to begin administrative medicine versus just seeing patients. A job at the University of Michigan pulled him back to his generations of Michigan roots, and he, his wife, his three children, and his two dogs have been here since 2002. At the University of Michigan, he worked as the chief medical officer of their health plan. Desiring to go back to internal medicine full-time, he accepted a position with Cherry Street Health Services.

“The thing I get the most out of being at a Health Center is seeing the dedication of the staff at Cherry Street and the effort they put into caring for our patients,” Platt said. “It makes me proud to be here.”

Platt said the Grand Rapids area has all the amenities of a big city but in a “small city package.” He said the city does have issues with unemployment, homelessness, and lack of access to medical care. The area has also seen a lot of consolidation of medical and specialist practices into hospital groups, and that limits the provider’s ability to see patients at little or no charge.

“The individual providers no longer have the say in how they provide that service to the community,” Platt said.

That’s one of the reasons Platt believes expanding Medicaid is right for Michigan, and it could help more than 60,000 people in Cherry Street’s service area. He’s hoping lawmakers will see that expanding Medicaid eligibility is a benefit that impacts the entire state.

“It amazes me that it’s even up for question. This is a program that will provide medical care to thousands of patients,” Platt said.  “It’ll improve quality of care, increase job opportunities, and fill a need. Patients we see now will ultimately have insurance and that will allow us to do additional things we can’t do now for these patients.”

One of his goals at Cherry Street is to continue the process of integrating care throughout the entire Health Center system, and to help achieve the triple aim – improve patient experience, population health improvement, reduce overall cost. Platt also wants to achieve Patient-Centered Medical Home at each site, and strengthen community by training upcoming providers.

“If you have someone you train, you’re much more likely to keep them,” Platt said. “There isn’t enough exposure to in the trenches primary care.”

Platt recently joined Michigan Primary Care Association’s board as a clinical representative. At Cherry Street, he still spends about 20 percent of his time seeing patients because he wants to know what life is like for the practicing physician as he guides their work.

Platt and his wife, who live in Dexter, will celebrate 20 years of marriage in June. In his free time, he makes furniture in his “elaborate” basement woodshop. He also plays the piano for fun.

Cherry Street Health Services is a not-for-profit organization offering comprehensive health services to low-income children and families. The Federally Qualified Health Center has over 25 sites and services around the State.

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