Health Services | Fitchburg State University
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Student Access to Health Care

CHC Nichols Road FitchburgFitchburg State University has partnered with Community Health Connections (CHC), a highly respected, federally qualified health center that has two locations very close to our campus, to provide services to the campus community. Many of our students and employees already use one of their four locations in our area.

The ACTION Community Health Center is located close to our campus in Central Plaza at 130 Water Street (Market Basket plaza), where students can access a broad array of primary care services, behavioral health care services,* and dental care.

Click here to see a list of common questions and answers about the transition.

Medical services are provided from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The cost for accessing care will usually be determined by what type of insurance you have.  

  • For students covered by MassHealth, most of the services will be provided at no cost (students will be required to designate Community Health Connections as their primary care provider);
  • For students enrolled in the University’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield student health insurance plan, the office visit copayment is $15; or 
  • Students under a parent's plan should be aware that Community Health Connections participates with most insurance plans and the cost for medical visits and ancillary services will be determined by the insurance plan’s schedule of benefits.

Community Health Connections is committed to providing services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Access to the sliding fee discount program will allow for out of pocket costs to be as low as $15 for a primary care visit.

Fitchburg State will have a dedicated provider located at the ACTION Center with preferred appointment availability for our students. Students may also use a second location at 326 Nichols Road in Fitchburg, as well as health centers located in Gardner and Leominster. Students will be able to access additional services such as optometry and podiatry at these other locations. 
 
The university will assist in transferring students' medical records from Student Health Services to Community Health Connections once they have an established patient relationship. For students who may be uninsured or under-insured, Community Health Connections provides enrollment assistance to help find the right health insurance plan that fits your needs.

Students who do not wish to transfer their primary care physician to Community Health Connections may continue to access services at the three urgent care centers that are located close to our campus. Students who are on MassHealth should check the back of their insurance card to see if specific urgent care centers must be used or if there are any other restrictions.

Note that there is no special arrangement for access to care at those locations; out-of-pocket costs will be determined by individual insurance coverage. 

* Students will be able to continue to access Counseling Services on the Fitchburg State campus.

Questions and Answers about Health Services Transition 

Why is Fitchburg State University transitioning to a partnership with Community Health Connections?

Today, driven by a better understanding of health and its impact on successful learning, many institutions of higher education feel the need to provide increased health services. Demands on health services are more complex than ever and increasing numbers of students are arriving on campus with health needs.

Given this reality, the university over the last couple of years has been exploring how to best strengthen its services for the benefit of our students. Expanded services, of course, are costly. To provide more services, health centers need more staff with a wider range of expertise as well as more space to provide care. Unfortunately, the university has neither the resources nor the space to expand its health services.

With our mission grounded in student access and affordability, we felt that partnering with an already established and conveniently located health provider would provide the greatest overall value to our student body.

As we have considered how to provide the best comprehensive medical health care for our students, we consulted with national experts. This process led us to develop a partnership with a highly respected, federally qualified health center that has two locations very close to our campus, Community Health Connections. Many of our students and employees already use one of their four locations in our area.

Through this collaboration, students will now have access to medical and dental care at expanded hours in the evening and on weekends beyond what we offered.

Why would this change happen now, when we are in the middle of a global pandemic?

We have been thinking about how to expand our array of health services for a few years. Due to increasing demand for a broader array of services and because of the seen and unforeseen challenges posed by the current pandemic, the university’s options were to partner with a strong health care provider like CHC or to initiate third-party billing so that we could expand services. The analysis of the two choices, and the experiences of many of our sister institutions, demonstrated that creating a partnership with CHC was the best option for our students, our community, and the institution.

Making the move at this time was prompted by the retirement of two of the four staff in Health Services early this summer. When we received news of the impending retirement of the director, in particular, we knew we needed to act swiftly to ensure that Fitchburg State students have access to excellent medical care. 

Some advantages of CHC:

  • CHC’s mission is about access to health care, and they are particularly adept at providing low income, underinsured, or uninsured people with health care.
  • They provide not only medical care, but also dentistry, optometry, behavioral health, and even podiatry.
  • CHC offers evening and weekend hours that we were not able to provide.
  • Two sites are conveniently located adjacent to campus.

Why Community Health Connections?

Community Health Connections (CHC) is a federally qualified health care center that is as passionate about access to health care as we are about access to education. Their mission is to provide quality comprehensive care to underinsured and uninsured people. The ACTION Center, located in the Market Basket shopping center on Water Street, is within walking distance. There, students will have access to medical, dental, and behavioral health (including mental health providers who can prescribe medication). The Nichols Road location is about a mile from campus, and includes the services mentioned above, along with optometry and podiatry.

But what about having to use insurance?

It is true that students will have to use their student health insurance or other insurance to access care. 

Student Health Insurance is mandated by the state, and none of those monies have ever gone to Fitchburg State University. It goes to Blue Cross Blue Shield to pay for the care at providers such as Community Health Connections.

For our students who are underinsured, connecting with CHC is a strong benefit. They have staff dedicated to providing enrollment assistance to help find the right health insurance plan that fits your needs. In addition, Community Health Connections is committed to providing services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Access to the Sliding Fee Discount Program will allow for out of pocket costs to be as low as $15 for a primary care visit.

For all students: if we had continued offering campus-based health services, we would have moved to using third-party billing (accessing insurance to help pay for and expand services), similarly to many institutions in the State University System and outside of it. 

Has anything changed about how we will be responding to medical emergencies?

No. We will continue to use University Police as the point of contact, and engage with the local 911 system.

Why do I have to switch my primary care physician to access medical care?

Unlike an urgent care center or walk-in clinics, CHC is a Family Practice, which offers the benefit of coordinated health care. In order to access the services at CHC and benefit from the family practitioners, those accessing medical care must declare their primary care physician at CHC. Luckily, in Massachusetts, this is a very easy process. See below.

Do note that switching the PCP only applies to medical care. The other areas (dentistry, optometry, etc.) do not require a switch.

How to Change Your PCP to a CHC Provider

  • Call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card and ask about transferring to CHC.
  • You can switch back during the summer, if you prefer. Some plans also make special arrangements to transfer care when students are away from their service area.
  • Review your insurance plan; if there are limitations, you may want to consider enrolling in the school-sponsored Student Health Insurance Plan.

Will I have to make an appointment?

Yes. You will have to make an appointment, just as you did at Health Services. Fitchburg State will be providing a health care professional to staff the ACTION Center (the CHC location at the Central Plaza by Market Basket on Water Street) that will allow our students to have priority access to same-day appointments. Watch for more details.

How will I access my Fitchburg State medical record?

You will access your medical record in the same way. See this web page for more information.

Existing medical records will be stored in a secured location and accessed only by designated staff. Confidentiality of these records will be maintained.

Will student athletes continue to receive medical care?

Yes, the team doctor and trainers are not associated with Student Health Services.

Will we still have a flu clinic on campus?

Yes! And we are under discussion about other types of clinics to bring to campus.

Will Pet Therapy continue?

Yes!

How do I get to the CHC locations in Fitchburg if I don’t have a car?

There are several ways to travel to the CHC locations. 

  • Take the Shuttle to the MART/T Station and walk a couple of blocks across the Water Street bridge to the ACTION Center
  • The ACTION Center is accessible by the #5 bus (free with your student ID)
  • The Nichols Road location is accessible by the #6 bus (free with your student ID)

Can I get a COVID test at Community Health Connections if I am symptomatic?

Yes. The ACTION Center next to the Market Basket on Water Street has daily COVID testing Monday-Friday, 9 am - 4 pm. No referral necessary. Follow the signs for testing. Please bring your photo ID and your insurance card. Contact 978-878-8100 for more information.

All students have been offered an initial COVID test, and the university will continue with surveillance testing throughout the Fall semester. We do not offer symptomatic testing.