Local health clinics get big boost from federal grants

By Claire Veyriras and Laura Chilaka, California News Service

WASHINGTON D.C. — San Gabriel Valley area health centers will receive $7.5 million to expand service to tens of 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 centers 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 less than 3,000 inhabitants just a few miles from the Mexican border, was granted $5.5 million.

Among the recipients is the East Valley Community Health Center in West Covina, which provides care and education to more than 50,000 mostly uninsured residents from West Covina to Claremont.

That clinic received a $3.1 million building capacity program grant.

Other local grants include $3.9 million to the Alhambra Northeast Community Clinic and $500,000 to the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena, which provides medical, dental and behavioral health services to children and adults.

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 Sebelius said in a statement.

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.

The QueensCare Family Clinic of East LA, for example, received a $5 million grant that it plans to use for a new facility to more than double the patients it serves.

“There is a huge need in East Los Angeles. There is a huge amount of health disparity in the population and unfortunately both of our facilities are extremely limited,” said Starr Azimi, QueensCare special projects manager.

In Watsonville, the Para La Gente clinic – awarded $5.5 million – said it expects to “welcome more than 2,000 additional patients,” according to Mary Kashmar, the clinic’s development director.

Tuesday’s announcement is part of the health care law’s provision for $11 billion to expand and bolster community health centers over five years. HHS says they have already supported the construction and renovation of 190 health centers and the creation of 67 new health centers.

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 cns@ucdc.edu

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