State health centers get $5.3 million from feds

The federal government announced Thursday that it has awarded $5.3 million to 10 Georgia health organizations to create new sites to deliver care.

Nationally, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $150 million under the Affordable Care Act to support 236 new health center sites across the country across the country.

The funding comes on top of $19 million awarded nationally in September to create new health care centers, including five in Georgia.

Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) serve underserved areas, offer a sliding fee scale, and provide comprehensive health services. The centers are also assisting enrollment in the health insurance exchanges, part of health care reform. An FQHC can operate several clinics.

A new health center site being built in Augusta.
A new health center site being built in Augusta.

HHS said the grants will support the establishment of new full-time service delivery sites.

“We are committed to providing more people across the country with the quality patient-centered care they deserve,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “Health centers are key partners in the improving access to quality, affordable health care services for those who need it most.’’

Georgia health centers served 321,210 patients last year, 53 percent of them uninsured.

Four of the 10 Georgia organizations are newly designated FQHCs, said Duane Kavka, executive director of the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care. Georgia now has 32 FQHCs that operate a total of 156 clinics.

“It appears we were one of the top states as to number [of new centers] funded,’’ Kavka said Thursday.

Of the 10 funded, six are expansions of existing FQHCs: Medlink Georgia in Colbert, which received $920,833; Community Health Care Systems in Wrightsville, which got $400,000; Georgia Mountains Health Services in Morgantown, $174,901; Neighborhood Improvement Project in Augusta, $108,333; Primary Care of Southwest Georgia in Blakely, $191,667; and Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, $379,167.

The four newly designated centers are the Center for Panasian Community Services in Atlanta, which received $791,731; Coastal Community Health Services in Brunswick, $775,000; Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb in Marietta, $812,500; and Health Education, Assessment and Leadership Inc., in Atlanta, $789,118.