Craig Harris/Macon County Times Gov. Bill Lee attended Wednesday morning’s announcement about how that United Health Foundation will be extending a $1-million grant to HOPE Family Health.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Gov. Bill Lee attended Wednesday morning’s announcement about how that United Health Foundation will be extending a $1-million grant to HOPE Family Health.

The governor doesn't visit Westmoreland very often.

In fact, it's believed that the last visit of a Tennessee governor to the northern Sumner County city was made by Phil Bredesen, who was in office from 2003-2011.

However, Bill Lee was in Westmoreland last Wednesday morning for an event that detailed how that United Health Foundation will be extending a $1 million grant to HOPE Family Health.

"I believe it's possible for every Tennessean to have access to quality health care they can afford," Lee said. "I'm proud that our state, with the help of the legislators -- Rep. (Kelly) Keisling, Rep. (Terri Lynn) Weaver, and Senator (Mark) Pody ... we have access for that reality to take place."

HOPE Family Health opened in 2005, operating out of a double-wide trailer and consisting of four employees.

"I remember being excited and proud and really nervous," HOPE Family Health CEO and co-founder Jennifer Dittes said. "As you can see, we've grown since then."

HOPE has a mission of providing affordable medical and mental health care to all, regardless of insurance status and ability to pay. HOPE labels itself as a faith-based, not-for-profit health center that treats patients throughout Middle Tennessee (in Macon, Sumner and Trousdale counties), as well as southern parts of Kentucky.

"We don't set limits," Dittes said. "We'll see anyone."

Bethpage resident Walker Sullivan has benefited from HOPE since 2008. The 73-year-old has frequently visited HOPE, along with his 68-year-old wife Judy.

"I had a pacemaker put in in June," Sullivan said. "I don't know what we would do without them. We're both on social security with no added income.

"It's like going to see a family. They sit down and talk to me."

United Health Foundation has a mission of working to improve the health system, building a diverse and dynamic health workforce, and enhancing the well-being of local communities. United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care.

To date, United Health Foundation has committed $430 million to programs and communities around the world.

"We serve over 1.2-million members in this state," UnitedHealthcare Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Rhonda Randall said. "It makes Tennessee a particular area of focus for UnitedHealthcare.

"It's always exciting to start (a partnership). We were expecting that they were going to start seeing patients in January, but they've already started seeing patients. One of the things we love to see is a great idea proven and brought to scale."

The funding -- which will come over three years -- is for the addition of clinical pharmacy services within the primary-care setting to address drug adherence issues, provide ongoing medication management, help avoid potential drug interactions, improve patient health literacy about their medications, and increase provider efficiency.

"It allows us to create a new clinical pharmacy program to create better care for our patients," Dittes said. "I anticipate that having a clinical pharmacist will have positive outcomes."

Randall added, "This partnership will help make a difference, one person at a time right here in Westmoreland."

Lindsay Watson was hired as HOPE's clinical pharmacist in July.

"The roles of pharmacy are really evolving right now," Watson said. "They oftentimes aren't getting the face-to-face interaction. Having that interaction in the clinic allows them to ask the questions they want to ask.

"You really try to listen to what the patient needs. We try to explore cost-effective options too."

Watson is more hands-on with the patients than a traditional pharmacist.

"Instead of standing behind a counter, I'm going to be in a patient exam room," Watson said. "When they come in, they will sit down with me and go over each medication they are taking.

"It's very similar to what their doctor would be doing, but it's another set of eyes. I have access to lab values to make sure doses are appropriate."

HOPE estimates that 43% of its patients are from Macon County, with the majority coming from Lafayette and others coming from both Red Boiling Springs and the Macon County portion of Westmoreland.

Lafayette residents Teddy and Mattie Orrand are HOPE patients.

"They are willing to help each and every person," Mattie Orrand said.