Home health-care services will be reaching more low-income Utahns thanks to a new competitive grant recently awarded to the Utah Department of Health.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, established a $5 million grant for five home health-care projects. Utah ranked first among the 17 states that applied for funding.The annual million-dollar grant will fund a multiyear, interagency effort to develop and coordinate medical and health-related services to prevent lengthy hospital stays or institutionalization for those with chronic conditions.

"This grant is a vital step toward improving Utah's home health-care delivery system," said Peter van Dyck, director of the Family Health Services Division. "It provides a smooth transition from hospital care-givers to home health-care providers, thereby ensuring quality patient care."

Van Dyck said some 300 to 500 children and at least that many adults in Utah receive skilled medical care at home.

"Some of their medical needs are not being met," he said. Reasons include limited or no health insurance, lack of trained providers, inadequate coordination among providers and a lack of information about how to get appropriate help.

Faye Lincoln, president of the Utah Association of Home Health Agencies, said the grant should help develop a centralized management system to coordinate home health-care needs.

"With appropriate training and supervision care can be provided in the home by the family and current providers for less or the same amount as hospitalization or institutionalization," Lincoln said. "A real benefit is that the chronically ill or technologically dependent person will recuperate or rehabilitate better in his or her home."

Van Dyck said that while the grant cannot meet all the needs for home health care, it organizes current resources to maximize benefits. While the grant benefits only low-income people, the new system will benefit all needing home health care.

The grant will serve about 30 young children and 50 adults annually. Those with family incomes up to 125 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify.

Direct home health care will begin in the spring of 1989, using coordinated hospital and community-based teams of providers.

A management board representing physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, home health agencies, medical equipment vendors, along with county and state health/social service officials will give advice and direction to the program. An advisory committee of clinical consultants will provide individual case consultation, review cases for quality assurance and cost-effectiveness, and help develop home health-care standards for providers.

The program has received broad support from all major Utah home health-care programs including University Hospital Home Care Services, Primary Children's Medical Center, Veterans Administration Hospital, Intermountain Health Care Home Health Agency and Community Nursing Service, plus the Utah Hospital Association, State Division of Aging and the 12 Utah local health departments.

Further information is available from Fred White, director of planning, evaluation and research, Division of Family Health Services, 528-6161.