The Community Health and Dental Care Center on Shoemaker Road is one of only five community health centers in Pennsylvania to receive new grant funding from the federal government under the politically divisive Obamacare.
The center qualified for $650,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of an initiative in the new health care law to expand access to community health centers around the country.
Pennsylvania received just over $3 million of the $128.6 million made available to 41 states and the District of Columbia.
A release from the DHHS estimated the grants will expand access to health care for 47,022 additional patients and create more than 5,600 jobs nationwide.
Bridgette Madden, CEO of Community Health and Dental Care Center, said the funding will replace operating funds provided by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, which tremendously helped to establish the center, and will continue to work with the foundation to potentially fund expanded services, programs and facilities for the health center.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have been chosen from among 800 national applications being one of the five awards received in Pennsylvania,” Madden said, noting that the applications were first completed in 2010 and the funding will begin June 2012 and continue through 2014. CHDC will reapply for HRSA funds for five year project periods thereafter.
The grants are scored based on “a number of factors,” which include poverty, the number of uninsured as well as “support letters,” she said.
Those included letters from the Health and Wellness Foundation, local politicians and even a number of patients who had been helped, Madden said.
Although the grant was awarded to the center because of its ability to help those who struggle with paying for health care, Madden pointed out that the center is a full-service health and dental center and those with private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or people who have no insurance can also tend to their health needs there.
“It’s not a free clinic or a social service agency; however, CHDC offers a Healthcare discount for those who qualify based on the federal poverty schedule which allows many people to have access for primary and dental services ” she said.
The money for this round of grants came from the federal stimulus, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and was put into a trust fund, Madden explained.
The new health care law then helped determine the guidelines through which the money in the trust fund would be distributed. “The health care law is making our community health centers stronger and ensuring more Americans get the care they need,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a prepared statement.
According to information supplied by DHHS, health centers employed more than 138,000 people in 2011, including nearly 10,000 doctors, 12,000 nurses, 10,000 dental staff and more.
Since 2009, health centers have added more than 25,300 new full-time positions, according to DHHS.
Madden pointed out that since 2010, Pottstown’s Community Health and Dental Center is among them, growing in both patients and staff. The center added 40 new jobs and providing access to health and dental care for more than 10,300 CHDC opened its doors to patients in 2008, she said.
In addition to conventional, in-office health and dental services, the CHDC also collaborates with the schools with a DK Destroyer dental education program, as well as fluoride varnishing and dental screenings with the local Head Start Programs, obesity projects with Creative Health and the YMCA, and a Hands of Giving Campaign which provides direct resources for its patients, she said.
Education and prevention are among the most cost-effective health care programs because they prevent expensive medical care, Madden said.
“We want to get people on the right track and improve the quality of life for all ages, one patient at a time.” she said.,” she said.
CHDC offers extended evening and weekends hours, participates in vaccines for children program, emergency dental care appointments and same day medical appointments. CHDC plans on opening a pharmacy for patients this summer and is developing a patient transportation program to assist patients to get to appointments and specialists.
“We are truly the best kept secret and Pottstown is very lucky to have this organization within this community” said Madden.
By Evan Brandt; The Mercury