Public News Service-VA
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(05/02/12) RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia is set to receive more than $16 million in federal grants to help with construction and expansion of eight community health centers around the state.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the grant recipients on Tuesday.
Neal Graham, who heads the Virginia Community Health Care Association, says the centers have been stretched financially, in large part because of high unemployment rates which also mean higher numbers of uninsured patients. Last year, he says, about 54 percent of the centers' new patients had no health insurance.
"And so these (funds) will be helpful from that standpoint, for allowing us to serve a greater capacity. It will allow us to expand in some areas for OB services and other areas. It will be able to expand for dental services and so forth that we presently don't offer."
Over the years, says Tom Van Coverden, president and chief executive of the National Association of Community Health Centers, there has generally been broad, bipartisan support for funding community health centers – and this time is no exception.
"I think policymakers on both sides realize even if you're fortunate enough to have an insurance card, you need a place to go – and if there's a medical home, a place that really is helping them to stay healthy, that there would be a long-range benefit in cost savings for everybody."
It's estimated that the funding, part of the new federal health-care reform law, will expand access for more than 6,400 new patients in Virginia. Nationally, the system should be able to serve 860,000 more patients when the expansion projects are complete.