MOUNT VERNON — After more than two years of planning, the Knox County Health Department has secured a grant worth over $1 million to fund a Federally Qualified Health Center.
The two-year, $1.5 million grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will finance comprehensive primary care services and will be renewable for additional funding. Medical, dental, behavioral health and addiction services will be available. HRSA-funded health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations (the board is 51 percent patient majority) located in a medically underserved area, serving populations with limited access to health care. These include low income populations, the uninsured, and those with limited English proficiency. Knox County was identified as medically underserved area in 2015 and has been identified as a shortage area for dentists for more than 10 years.
“The Knox County Board of Health is excited to work with the Knox County Community Health Center Board to provide expanded and needed access to health care services,” said health commissioner Judy Miller. “This center will assist the health department and our community to improve health outcomes for Knox County residents and others in nearby counties.”
Community health centers provide services without regard for patients’ ability to pay and charge for services on a sliding fee scale. The health centers have been recognized for improving patient outcomes while reducing health disparities, despite serving a population that is often sicker and more at risk than the general population. FQHCs are also recognized for reducing costs to health systems; the health center model of care has been shown to reduce the use of costlier providers of care, such as emergency departments and hospitals.
Planning for a FQHC in Knox County has been underway for more than two years.
The Knox County Board of Health voted to pursue the idea with the creation of a co-applicant board in 2015. The Knox County Community Health Center board is comprised of 11 people, six of whom are described as patients or consumers of the public healthcare system with the remaining five members representing various social service agencies, organizations and government entities. The official application for funding was submitted in July.
The first order of business will be to hire the chief operations officer or program director position. This position will oversee the day-to-day operation of the health center work with Miller and the health department’s fiscal coordinator.
“The community health center will operate similarly to a clinic or doctor’s office. Services will be provided by administrative support staff, health professionals, doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists and others,” said Miller. “Patients can expect to receive quality, integrated and holistic care.”
The Knox County grant was one of four awarded in Ohio and one of 75 awarded nationally for Fiscal Year 2017. The other agencies in Ohio receiving health center grants for FY17 include Signature Health in Willoughby, Five Rivers Health Centers in Dayton and Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio headquartered in Worthington. There are 45 FQHCs in Ohio. The nearest FQHC is the Third Street Clinic in Mansfield.