OBSERVER Staff Report
A $650,000 Department of Health and Human Services grant will fund the creation of the first federally qualified health center in Chautauqua County's history.
The Chautauqua Health Center, which has been in the works for five years, will provide medical, dental, and behavioral health services to more than 5,000 residents in Chautauqua County, and is expected to open by October at 319 Central Ave., Dunkirk.
314 Central Ave., Dunkirk
The announcement was made by Sen. Charles Schumer, who urged the HHS to approve the Center's application in November of 2010.
"This is a huge win for Chautauqua County residents that will now have a federally qualified health center for the very first time," Schumer said in a news release. "Residents of Chautauqua County have long needed this center and I applaud the Department of Health and Human Services for stepping up to the plate and providing funding to create it. Now, more than 5,000 local residents that need health care will have somewhere to turn."
"We want to thank Senator Schumer for his support and for helping to secure this federal funding. The Chautauqua Center will be a tremendous asset to the local community and we look forward to opening our doors this fall," said Michael Pease, Interim Executive Director for the new Chautauqua Center.
In 2007, Chautauqua County was recognized as one of the poorest counties in the country without a Federally Qualified Health Center. The residents of the county suffer from diabetes, asthma, and heart disease at rates that are higher than the national average. In response to this need, the Chautauqua County Health Network and the Community Health Center Association of New York State applied for and were awarded a HRSA Community Health Center Planning Grant to investigate ways to expand healthcare coverage and access within the county. The planning committee then applied for this grant money to create of The Chautauqua Center, Inc. to increase access to adequate healthcare in the county.
Schumer said that creating The Chautauqua Center, Inc. as a Federally Qualified Health Center will enable the center to be eligible for various grants and other funding opportunities that will allow it to provide primary and preventative services in a county where there is a severe lack of access to adequate health care. The newly established center will provide medical, dental, and behavioral health services to more than 5,000 of the underserved in Chautauqua County.
This grant was one of many awarded to community health center across the country Wednesday by HHS Secretary Kathleen Seblius. The grants awarded to 20 New York health centers totaled 10.5 million. A total of $128.6 million was awarded across the United States in the form of 219 awards. New York received the second largest number of awards in the country. These grants will help expand access to care for more than 1.25 million additional patients and create approximately 5,640 jobs by establishing new health center service delivery sites. Community health centers work to improve the health of the nation by ensuring access to quality primary health care services.
In New York, Community health centers provide high quality, affordable and accessible primary medical, dental and preventive care to more than 1.4 million New Yorkers at over 470 sites in urban, suburban and rural settings.
According to the Community Health Care Association of New York State, this funding opportunity is historic in its significance as it represents an unprecedented investment by the federal government in FQHCs and has the potential to expand New York State's primary care system as never before, bringing essential new services to some of the highest-need areas. The awards announced today will infuse critical dollars into New York's health centers and their surrounding communities, enhancing health centers' ability to serve more patients and creating thousands of jobs across the country.
Recent increased funding for America's community health centers began with a $2 billion investment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act included $11 billion in funding for community health centers. The two laws combined will help America's community health centers to serve nearly twice as many patients as before. The newly awarded funds will support renovation and construction projects and boost the centers' ability to care for additional patients and while creating jobs in those communities. Community health centers are an integral source of local employment and economic growth in many underserved and low-income communities. In 2010, they employed more than 131,000 staff and new funds made available today will help create thousands of jobs nationwide.
In addition to providing essential health care, community health centers also provide high-quality jobs in communities nationwide. In 2010, they employed more than 131,000 staff including 9,600 physicians, 6,400 nurse practitioners, physicians' assistants, and certified nurse midwives, 11,400 nurses, 9,500 dental staff, 4,200 behavioral health staff, and more than 12,000 case managers and health education, outreach, and transportation staff. Since the beginning of 2009, health centers have added more than 18,600 new full-time positions in many of the nation's most economically distressed communities. The funding awards announced today will infuse critical dollars into health centers and their surrounding communities, enhancing health centers' ability to serve more patients and creating thousands of jobs across the country.