Local health centers around the country received a boost from the Department of Health and Human Services last week when grant awards for renovation and construction were announced by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The new funding will allow an additional 1.3 million people to receive services over the next two years — many of whom are from ethnic minority groups or recently jobless.
Over $700 million will support 398 health center projects in 48 states. The funding is part of two capital investment plans under the Affordable Care Act, which will provide $11 billion to improve health care services in local communities over five years.
“This investment will expand our ability to provide high-quality care to millions of people while supporting good paying jobs in communities across the country,” Sebelius said in her announcement at Fairmount Primary Care Center in Philadelphia.
In Camden, N.J., Project H.O.P.E. received $4.7 million to construct a new health center, which will provide health and social services to the homeless in Camden.
“By creating a new site for Project H.O.P.E.’s primary and preventative care services, there will be an increase in access to care, as well as construction jobs and other employment opportunities brought to the Camden area,” the group said in a statement.
The grants will also help fund upgrades to existing facilities that want to improve technology, equipment and services to patients; and improve oral health care, substance abuse services and behavioral and mental health services.
Currently, community health care centers serve nearly 3 million patients nationwide.
Administrator Mary Wakefield of the Health Resources and Services Administration said that the new grants would allow community health centers to meet the growing demand for patient services.
”[Health centers] will have more space that’s capable of housing new and upgraded equipment, they’ll be able to improve care delivery and enhance access to healthcare services,” Wakefield said.
She pointed out that two-thirds of the population served at community health centers currently, are ethnic and racial minorities. And, that nine of ten patients seen at community health centers are well below the poverty line.
According to Wakefield, over the last three years, there has been an increase of 2 million people served at health centers, due to layoffs and loss of employer health insurance.
At a townhall meeting at the White House on minority health last month, Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin stressed the importance of such centers.
“There is a shortage,” she said. “We need more clinicians, we need more centers and more private clinicians and so we’re trying to do that.”
Advocates say the disbursed funding has increased employment at health centers by 15 percent since 2009 and are optimistic that this new funding will increase these centers’ reach.