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As Health Care Debate Continues, Stimulus Dollars Flow to Health Care Centers


Thursday, August 13, 2009   

COLUMBUS, Ohio - While a new national health reform plan is being fiercely debated in public, stimulus money is quietly working to get health care to people across the country. Already, 32 Community Health Centers in Ohio have received a total of $8 million from the federal government's economic stimulus bill.

With more Ohioans now in the ranks of the unemployed and uninsured, the funds could not have come at a better time, according to Lindsey Reynolds with the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers.

"There has been a huge increase in demand for services at community health centers because they're all located in medically underserved areas in both rural and urban communities across the state."

Stimulus dollars have been used by the centers to expand hours, hire staff or update infrastructure, helping an estimated 70,000 additional patients receive services. Opponents of the stimulus argue that many of the funds are being wasted or not spent quickly enough.

At Akron Community Health Resources, stimulus money was used to bring in dental chairs to provide oral health care, the number one unmet health need in Ohio. Clinical director Christina Coenen says funds also were used to shore up infrastructure so more services can be provided.

"You need to have a strong clinic setup so you can get patients in and provide the care they need. That's very important in the community - the healthier families are, the more productive the community can be, the less drain on tax dollars. It's just a cascade effect."

Dave Taylor, COO of the National Association of Community Health Centers, says the centers are proof that health reform more ways than one.

"First, they have perfected a model of primary care and prevention. Second, health reform, in part, means reaching those 60 million Americans who are, today, medically disenfranchised."

This week is National Health Center week. Taylor says the federal stimulus plan delivered the right medicine for the centers, which currently serve 20 million Americans.

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