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Millions Coming to Expand CO Community Health Centers

May 2, 2012

DENVER - Seven community health centers in Colorado are getting more than $21 million in Affordable Care Act funding to expand and renovate their facilities. It's estimated the improvements will give about 27,000 new patients access to health care.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius on Tuesday announced funding of more than $728 million for expansion and renovation of community health centers across the nation.

Tom Van Coverden, who heads the National Association of Community Health Centers, says there's broad bipartisan support for this type of health care, adding that the last big push to expand the system happened during the Bush administration.

"I think policymakers on both sides realize even if you're fortunate enough to have a 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."

The grants are going to seven Front Range facilities, including more than $70,000 to Clinica in Lafayette and nearly $500,000 each to Peak Vista Community Health Centers in Colorado Springs and Metro Community Provider Network in Englewood. At least $5 million goes to each of four facilities: Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Sunrise Community Health in Evans and Salud in Fort Lupton.

This federal funding is part of a plan to double the capacity of the community health center system by 2015. Van Coverden says there's a need for greater access to affordable care.

"It's already jammed, and so I think it absolutely will help provide the space that they'll need and help recruit the physicians and nurses that they need to get more care to more people. But the demand is certainly there for more care."

This round of funding is unique because federal funds usually are allocated only for patient care. Van Coverden says the money should not only improve health care access but also create construction jobs as the projects get under way.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO