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$21 Million to Help FL Health Centers to Serve More Patients

May 2, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - More Floridians will be able to receive services through community health centers, thanks to new funding from the Affordable Care Act.

More than $21 million in grants was announced Tuesday to help 15 Florida community health-care centers build or renovate facilities and serve more patients. Last year, 1.2 million patients were served by their centers, says Andrew Behrman, president and chief executive of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers.

"These dollars are to be used for renovation and construction projects to increase the ability of health centers to provide access to care for patients all around the state. It will absolutely provide for tens of thousands of people to get primary-care services."

Ray Fusco, chief operating officer at Manatee Rural Health Care Centers, says the grant his organization received will be used to renovate an eye-services location in Arcadia. If it hadn't received these funds, he says, it might not have been able to operate the center much longer.

"It wasn't imminent, but it was getting close to where you don't want it to get imminent. It allows us to continue to serve the safety net and Medicaid and other patients out in that area."

The money allows centers to expand or improve their facilities and to address pressing equipment needs. Across the nation, grants of more than $728 million have been announced, for projects which should expand health-care access to an additional 860,000 patients.

Funding from the Affordable Care Act is usually targeted for patient care, but a major federal goal is to double community health-center capacity by 2015. Tom Van Coverden, who heads the National Association of Community Health Centers, says the system is stretched to the max with uninsured and under-insured patients.

"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."

Community health centers already provide medical, dental and behavioral services for more than 20 million patients, he says, regardless of their ability to pay.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - FL