By Claire Veyriras and Laura Chilaka
WASHINGTON – Santa Cruz health centers will receive nearly $8 million to expand service to thousands of uninsured, immigrant and other needy patients, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
The grants are part of a $728 million nationwide program contained in the 2009 health care bill to help community health programs expand their capacity by building new facilities and renovating existing centers.
Nearly one in six dollars – roughly $122 million – will go to California, aimed primarily at rural areas with large, underserved populations. A clinic in Campo, for example, a small town of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants just a few miles from the Mexican border, was granted $5.5 million.
The White House distributed a list of grant winners state-by-state in order to highlight benefits stemming from the Affordable Care Act.
“President Obama’s health care law is making community health centers in California stronger,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said in a statement distributed to news outlets.
Among the largest recipients is Watsonville Salud Para La Gente center which will receive $5.5 million. The money will be used to renovate the main clinic and increase the number of exam rooms, education workshops and parking spots.
“The grant is crucial for the health safety net here because we provide services for the most needy” said clinic development director Mary Kashmar. “The grants will enable us to expand the clinic by more than 13,000 square feet.”
Santa Cruz County will also receive a significant award of almost $2.4 million.
The program aims to increase the quality and quantity of community health care, which is the primary point of entry for most patients into the health care system. Nationwide, the new money will expand access to an additional 860,000 patients, according the announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Watsonville’s Salud Para La Gente clinic expects to “welcome more than 2,000 additional patients,” according to Kashmar.
Tuesday’s announcement is part of the health care law’s provision of $11 billion to expand and bolster community health centers for five years. The Department of Health and Human Services says it has already supported the construction and renovation of 190 health centers and the creation of 67 new health centers.
In Berkeley, a $5 million grant will mean the creation of a new clinic which will target mainly low income communities in Alameda County and Western Contra Costa County to treat people with HIV, mental or physical disabilities, the homeless and MediCal recipients.
“We will use the funding to construct a new clinic in downtown Berkeley,” said Nance Rosencranz, strategic planning director of Berkeley Lifelong Medical Care.
In San Jose, the $900,000 grant will be used to renovate and reopen a clinic that closed in the 1990s and which is now abandoned.
“Our goal is to rehabilitate it (the old clinic) in order to provide for low income families and what we call the underserved areas,” said Salvador Chavarin, chief financial officer at the San Jose Foothills Family Community Clinic.
The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California Washington Center and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. E-mail the California News Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.