27 Aug Grants to Fund More Community Health Centers (VA)

August 27, 2010

By: Tammie Smith
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia  could get a dozen new federally supported community health-center sites next year as federal officials, preparing for millions of newly insured Americans, plan to fund up to 350 more sites.

As part of health-care reform, $250 million is being made available in 2011 for the new health-center sites.

Operators of the Daily Planet and Vernon J. Harris health centers are among those planning to apply for grants to operate new sites.

"We anticipate 10 to 13 applications from around Virginia," said Rick Shinn, spokesman for the Virginia Community Healthcare Association.

"This will mostly be new satellite locations of existing organizations," Shinn said. "In addition to satellite sites that serve the . . . general population, they can also target special populations — school, health care for the homeless, public housing or migrant populations."

In Virginia, 25 health-center grant recipients provide care at 112 sites. In the Richmond region, the Daily Planet, the Capital Area Health Network and Central Virginia Health Services all operate multiple health-center sites.

"We did a market assessment to see where the needs are," said James Woody Jr., chief operations officer for the Capital Area Health Network, which has five Richmondarea sites, including the Vernon J. Harris health center in Church Hill.

Woody said the new location they have in mind is along the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor in Chesterfield County.

Federally supported health centers have been around since the 1970s and are popular under both Democratic and Republican administrations because they provide cost-efficient, community-based care.

Across the United States, about 1,100 grant recipients operate 7,900 health-center sites that serve about 19 million patients.

At the Daily Planet, a facility that focuses on serving the homeless population, plans are to apply to do a site in the Blackwell community in Richmond, said Maureen Neal, the Daily Planet’s chief operating officer for advancement.

"We are still a health care for the homeless clinic," Neal said. "However, particularly in the last two years with the economic downturn, our demographic has changed. We still see homeless clients. But we’re seeing many more people who are on the edge of being homeless.

The Daily Planet’s primary clinic at 517 W. Grace St. in downtown Richmond is completing a $1 million renovation funded in part with $370,000 in federal stimulus dollars.

Central Virginia Health Services, based in Buckingham County, will appl y to operate a location in Charlottesville, Development Director Sheena Mackenzie said. A health-needs study by the local health district led to two census tracts in the proposed service area being designated as medically underserved.

Mackenzie said health-center staff met with community members to talk about developing a health center.

"There was strong support for us to do that," Mackenzie said. "We don’t want to replace anything that is already in existence. There is a great enough need that we will provide an additional access point."

Federal health-care reform establishes an $11 billion, five-year fund to support health-center expansion.

These dollars are in addition to the annual federal budgeted amounts for ongoing support of existing community health centers.

Federal dollars cover a portion of health center operating expenses. The facilities also rely on public and private insurance, self-pay clients who are charged according to income, and fundraising.

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