First Lady Michelle Obama announced the release of $14,622,689 in grants on Monday to community health centers in Oregon. Her announcement was followed on Tuesday by an announcement by Rep. Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley. The grants will help address immediate and pressing health center facility and equipment needs and increase access to health care for millions in Oregon. The money was made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and comes as more Americans join the ranks of the uninsured due to the economic downturn and skyrocketing health costs.”Community Health Centers provide care to the Americans who need it most and their work has never been more important,” said Obama.
The Recovery Act Cap “These grants will help centers in Oregon serve more Americans who simply can’t afford insurance coverage anymore.” Vital Improvement Program (CIP) grants will support the construction, repair and renovation of over 1,500 health center sites nationwide. More than 650 centers will use the funds to purchase new equipment or health information technology (HIT) systems, and nearly 400 health centers will adopt and expand the use of electronic health records.
Oregon will receive $14, 622,689 for 25 community health centers. And of those dollars, the Community Health Center, which has a clinic in White City, Medford and Ashland, will receive $600,945. La Clinica De Valle will receive $676,510.
The funds are for infra structure and equipment, according to Peg Crowley, CEO of the Community Health Centers in White City, Medford and Ashland. When the White City facility was constructed five years ago, it was built to accommodate a second floor. These dollars will complete that project and realign two exam rooms for future use. In addition, the computer server will be moved to White City in preparation for converting to electronic medical records (EMR) . When this change over occurs, Crowley said it will improve the ability to coordinate care which will lead to better service.
Construction is expected to begin soon. Vitus Construction will be the contractor and Ray Kessler will be the architect. They did the original White City building. This project will employ several on a short-term basis, said Crowley.
Once the EMR system is moved, an additional full time employee will be needed at the White City center. Crowley said the system should be running by October.
The Medford center will be going after grant money to connect the Medford offices.
“We want to thank the community for their continued support. There is a risk that people will look at the money we have received and perhaps not continue their strong support. The $600,000+ is not for direct service,” reminded Crowley.
Health centers deliver preventive and primary care services at more than 7,500 service delivery sites around the country to patients regardless of their ability to pay; charges for services are set according to income. Health centers serve more than 17 million patients, about 40 percent of whom have no health insurance. Community Health Centers are the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The Capitol Improvement grant awards are the third set of health center grants provided through the Recovery Act. On March 2, President Obama announced grants worth $155 million to establish 126 new health center sites. Those grants will provide access to essential preventive and primary health care for more than 750,000 people in 39 states and two territories.
On March 27, HHS also awarded $338 million in Increased Demand for Services grants for health centers. Health centers are using these Increased Demand for Services grants to provide care to more than 2 million additional patients over the next two years, including approximately 1 million uninsured people.
In April, the local health centers received $262,333 to provide additional support for the uninsured. That funding was based on the increased demand for service.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent