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President Obama Lauds Health Centers in Funding Announcement

By: Beau Boughamer

As almost all health center supporters know by now, President Obama on Wednesday announced the awarding of nearly $600 million to Community Health Centers — for capital projects, health information technology and efforts related to the patient-centered medical home concept.  If you hadn’t heard, check out the White House release and NACHC’s reaction; NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden’s statement noted that health centers are “profoundly grateful” for the funding.

Video of the ceremony and a sampling of coverage — after the jump.

The announcement made headlines across the United States Wednesday and Thursday.  In some cases, this meant front page coverage for health centers in newspapers.

bostonglobeGood places to start are the Associated Press write-up — which noted that the President drew a connection between health center investments and the need for broader health reform — and the Reuters story.

The Boston Globe‘s front-page story noted that eight Bay State health centers will receive project funding.

“Not only will it increase access to health care, it is going to be transformational for our community in terms of bringing jobs to the community, bringing a new physical plant into the area,’’ said Dr. Azzie Young, president of the Mattapan Community Health Center, which is getting $11.5 million and expects to create 60 construction jobs, 20 clinic positions, and 45 jobs among tenants at the new facility.  Many of the health centers long ago outgrew space cobbled together over the years as they treated patients stricken with conditions that have become strikingly more common – and severe – including asthma and diabetes.

In New Hampshire, Foster’s Daily Democrat noted that President Obama mentioned Avis Goodwin Community Health Center specifically.

“We’re investing in places like Avis Goodwin Community Health Center in Dover, New Hampshire, that’s become so overcrowded … the doctors are using bathrooms and closets as offices,” he said…. Avis Goodwin Executive Director Janet Atkins, who was at the White House for Obama’s speech, credited U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-Madbury, who helped secure the $5 million award. The money will pay for the majority of the Route 108 project’s $6.4 million price tag…. The new space would allow Avis to serve an additional 3,000 patients, save $200,000 in annual operating expenses, and create seven full-time jobs.

The President also mentioned Canyonlands Community Healthcare, as documented by the Arizona Daily Sun‘s story on investments in the northern part of the Grand Canyon State.

Flagstaff-based North Country HealthCare will receive $7.4 million to build and expand health clinics under competitive federal stimulus funding announced Wednesday.  Canyonlands Community Health Care on the Arizona Strip north of Grand Canyon will receive $2.1 million “This is really exciting for us,” said Liz Latham, chief executive of Canyonlands, which also has clinics in Page and on the Navajo Nation.  In Flagstaff, it means the new North Country HealthCare building on Fourth Street will add 12 more exam rooms, 13 more physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants, and perhaps 15 staff to work with them, according to the agency’s top medical officer.  North Country also plans to build new clinics in Holbrook and Springerville.  In a speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama referred to one of the Canyonlands clinics 30 miles southeast of Kayenta, where doctors were working out of a former chicken coop.

IowaIndependent.com reported on funding for Primary Health Care, Inc. of Des Moines and included a video that Primary Health Care made recently to showcase its services.

The Contra Costa Times had details on a new health center for West Contra Costa County.

The center will replace the venerable but obsolete county-run Richmond Health Center, which has logged more than 1 million patient visits since it opened in 1967, according to health officials.  “We’ve tried for years to provide high quality care in an aging, dysfunctional building in a Contra Costa community with some of the highest health needs,” said Dr. William Walker, the county’s health services director. “We’ll finally be able to realize our dream by building a state of art building to match the high quality of care we’ve always delivered.”  The Richmond Health Center, one of eight run by Contra Costa County, provides primary and specialty care, well-baby visits, immunizations and other critical services.

TBO.com had both the jobs angle and the care angle covered in its story on Tampa Bay area projects.

Tampa Family Health Centers will get $2.9 million from the economic stimulus bill to build an 18,000-square-foot clinic on North Dale Mabry Highway next to University Community Hospital.  Suncoast Community Health Centers, which serves east and south Hillsborough County communities such as Ruskin, Dover and Plant City, will get $3.7 million….  “We’re pleased because these are local jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. “Tampa Family Health Centers likes to hire from the neighborhoods where they are located.”  Local health clinics fill gaps in health care, Castor said, providing a lifeline for neighborhoods where residents are uninsured, underinsured or lack transportation to medical facilities.

San Antonio’s Express-News highlighted four projects in Texas.

El Centro Del Barrio Inc. clinic in Southwest San Antonio is eligible for $11 million in grants to renovate and improve the facility, which has provided services since 1973.  The neighborhood where the clinic is located has been designated by federal officials as a Medically Underserved Area and a Health Professional Shortage Area.  Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, whose congressional district includes the area, attended the ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the grants were announced. Other clinics approved for grants are: Brownsville Community Health Center, $7.5 million; Project Vida Health Center, El Paso, $6 million; Su Clinica Familiar, Harlingen, $7.5 million.

The Cincinnati Enquirer focused on projects involving two health centers in Southwest Ohio.

New community health centers will be built in Clermont County’s Union Township and New Richmond thanks to a $9.7 million federal grant announced Wednesday.  A similar grant of nearly $4.7 million will go to the Butler County Community Health Consortium Inc., a nonprofit agency that has centers in Hamilton and Middletown. Marc Bellisario, the agency’s chief executive officer, couldn’t be reached for comment.  The grant to HealthSource of Ohio, based in Clermont County’s Miami Township, will enable it to serve 6,000 more patients when replacement buildings go up in Union Township and New Richmond in the next two years, said Lisa Jackson, vice president of marketing and development…. “We’re the state of Ohio’s largest community health center,” Jackson said. While founded in 1976, “we’re the region’s best-kept secret.  “Being a community health center, we see everybody: those with the best insurance in town, those with no insurance, those with Medicaid, Medicare,” Jackson said. “What sets us apart is we take all regardless of their ability to pay. … We offer a discounted fee based on folks’ family size and income. A lot of people would otherwise go without medical care.”

IHealthBeat and Modern Healthcare focused on the HIT angle.  Modern Healthcare quoted NACHC’s Michael Lardiere:

At least $88 million will be set aside for health IT grants, which “will go far in expanding the current system of networks” in health centers, said Michael Lardiere, director of health information technology and senior adviser, behavioral health at the National Association of Community Health Centers, in an e-mail. NACHC “looks forward to assisting all of its community health centers in utilizing their new funding in the most effective and efficient ways possible.”

Elsewhere:

Finally — it’s always interesting to get the international perspective.  Because it was the President who made this announcement, global news outlets covered the story.  One was the respected Agence France-Presse (AFP) wire service.

US health centers serve more than 17 million patients, about 38 percent of whom have no health insurance, according to official figures.

The United States is the only industrialized democracy that does not ensure that all of its citizens have health care coverage, with an estimated 36 million Americans uninsured.

And Washington spends vastly more on health care — both per person and as a share of national income as measured by gross domestic product — than other industrialized democracies, with no meaningful advantage in quality of care, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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