McGuire partners with the Ceres Project to develop pilot program with goal to enhance health outcomes for the chronically ill and save taxpayers millions

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sacramento, CA – Working hand-in-hand with the Ceres Project in the North Bay Area, Project Open Hand in San Francisco, Health Trust in San Jose, Project Angel Food in Los Angeles and others, Senator Mike McGuire has secured $6 million over three years for an innovative first-of-its-kind healthy food pilot project for low income Californians with chronic health diseases. 

The soon-to-be launched program is modeled off of work in Philadelphia by the organization Manna. There, the pilot project demonstrated after delivering three medically tailored meals each day to 65 patients with chronic diseases for six months, their healthcare costs dropped from $38,937 per month to $28,183 per month and were 55 percent lower than other groups in the study

Earlier this year, after meeting with Ceres Project CEO Cathryn Couch and other members of the statewide coalition, Senator McGuire and Couch embarked on a crusade to get state funding secured in the budget for a statewide pilot program to include medically-tailored, home-delivered meals that are appropriate for the individual’s chronic diseases.

“The Ceres Project has done life changing work in Marin and Sonoma counties. We couldn’t be more excited to turn this local success story into a statewide program that will improve the health of those who need it most while reducing costs for taxpayers over the long term,” Senator McGuire said. “The bottom line: We believe, over the next three years, we’ll demonstrate enhanced health outcomes for chronically ill Medi-Cal patients and save millions in health care costs.”

Cathryn Couch, CEO of the Ceres Project, has dedicated the last several months to seeing this budget request through.

“High quality food is the missing piece of the puzzle for many patients, especially those on Medi-Cal who are often food insecure. We are grateful to Senator McGuire whose vision and leadership were critical to creating and forming this pilot project. The research is clear – when patients have enough healthy food, especially when it’s tailored to their illness, they feel better and they do better. This translates to less emergency room visits, shorter hospital stays, a greater ability to adhere to treatment – and all of that leads to lower healthcare costs,” Couch said.

The funding for this pilot project is included in SB 97, a budget bill that was voted on and approved in the Senate this afternoon. The $6 million will be used over a three year pilot project period. The funds will target chronically ill Medi-Cal patients who suffer from congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or renal disease.

Dr. Hilary Seligman with UCSF Global Health Sciences said, “I am so pleased to see progress toward ensuring that the most critically ill patients have access to the food they need to stay healthy in their homes. Not only do these meals nourish, but they also hold promise for keeping people out of the hospital, preventing health crises, and allowing people to maintain independence at home.”

The pilot project will track the utilization of the program closely, along with health outcomes, before, during and after the program has ended.

At the end of the 3-year program, the Department of Health Care Services will evaluate what impact the program had on hospital readmissions, decreased admissions to long term care facilities, and emergency room utilization and will report the findings back to the legislature.

SB 97 is now heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature.