Federal funds give boost to health clinics

Jackson County's Community Health Center Inc. and La Clinica Del Carino are among 25 nonprofit community clinics in Oregon that will share $5.9 million to provide health care to poor and uninsured people. The funds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The number of uninsured patients has skyrocketed in Oregon and around the nation, while community clinics such as the Community Health Center in Medford that serve them have seen a decline in contributions.

Statewide, the grants, will save or create 120 health center jobs and provide care to an estimated 32,500 patients in the next two years.

The Community Health Center, which has locations in Medford, White City and Ashland received a $262,363 two-year grant. The grant will allow the center to avoid cuts of 5.5 full-time positions from its staff of 70, said Executive Director Peg Crowley.

"This money is really appreciated," said Crowley, "because as a result of an increase in requests for service from people who are completely uninsured and other changes in giving patterns and the ability to obtain grants we had actually started laying off staff, so the majority of our money will be used to just to retain staff."

La Clinica's two-year grant equals $278,509. The clinic's executive director could not be immediately reached Friday for comment.

Since 2006, the Community Health Center has seen a 20 percent increase in the number of patients it serves and a 74 percent increase in the number of uninsured patients, Crowley said.

In 2008, the center served 10,027 patients, 6,617 of whom were not insured. The federal infusion of funds will help continue some of that service, but Crowley noted it won't cover all the needs.

"It will be imperative that the community at large . . . continue their support," said Crowley, noting the clinics' reliance on donations.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the grant awards Friday, but some of the clinics already had the money in hand, including the Community Health Center.

With an application process that began in early March, the selection process took less than three weeks.

"We are so thankful and really commend the staff at the Bureau of Primary Health Care that worked with us and got the money out so fast," Crowley said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

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