Sierra Vista is getting a new community health clinic thanks to a nearly $1 million grant to a Cochise County health organization.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius today announced that $150 million in Affordable Care Act Funds will be going to 236 health programs in 43 states across the country. Five of those programs are in Arizona, including the Chiricahua Community Health Centers, which currently serves about 23,000 people in Cochise County, including approximately 5,000 seasonal farmworkers.
Chiricahua Community Health Centers, which began in Elfrida and has its head office in the border community of Douglas, received $900,000 of the $3.5 million awarded to Arizona health programs today. It's the largest of any of the Arizona grants announced today by Sebelius.
The other four Arizona programs that received grants were $758,333 to Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health in Scottsdale; $733,333 to North Country Healthcare Inc. in Flagstaff; $758,333 to SMMHC in Apache Junction; and $441,667 to the Sun Life Family Health Center in Casa Grande.
"We've been trying to put a clinic in Sierra Vista for eight years," said Mac McPherran, chief financial officer for Chiricahua Community Health Centers. "It was an absolute surprise. We are extremely excited. It's good for the whole community."
The organization is the largest primary care provider in Cochise County and also the county's sole federally qualified community health center. While it operates an administrative office in Sierra Vista and has a mobile health clinic there, it does not have a standing clinic site. Need is high in Sierra Vista, which is the largest city in Cochise County, McPherran said.
The community health organization operates clinics in Elfrida, Douglas and Bisbeee, in addition to its mobile dental and health clinics.
McPherran said a building will likely be leased for the Sierra Vista clinic and one of the conditions of the 18-month federal grant is that it must be up and running by February. Federal officials say the $3.5 million in funds to Arizona will help care for about 39,000 additional Arizonans.
The hallmark of community health centers is that they provide comprehensive primary care coverage regardless of ability to pay,
Arizona health centers served 423,160 patients last year, 27 percent of them uninsured, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Community health centers in the U.S. are critical hubs of care, Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephonic press conference.
While this is a time when the federal government is focused on making sure Americans know about signing up for health insurance, Muñoz said boosting access to quality care is just as vital.
"Community health centers now serve more than 21 million people each year," she said. "This is important work that is going on."
Muñoz said the new grant money will provide care to an additional 1.25 million Americans and will be a particular boost to Latinos, who comprise about one-third of community health center patients nationwide.