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Federal grant allows local health care group to plan clinic for Livingston underinsured

Federal grant allows local health care group to plan clinic for Livingston underinsured
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POSTED: Friday, November 15, 2013 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Friday, November 15, 2013 - 5:04am

Most news about health care has been negative recently.

But for people in Livingston Parish who cannot afford insurance, help is just a couple months away.

The federal government recently awarded $150 million in grants to health care centers around the country, because of the Affordable Care Act. The grants are supposed to give more than a million people access to health care.

One of the organizations that received a grant is Primary Care Providers for a Healthy Feliciana.

"And we're very excited," CEO Ginger Hunt said, "because we had no idea we were going to be funded."

Primary Care Providers applied for a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in April and was denied. It did not reapply, but was chosen on October 31 and notified last week that it will receive $191,667.

The organization currently operates seven clinics in East Feliciana and West Baton Rouge parishes, and targets people who are uninsured or on Medicaid. Those parishes both include a large number of residents who cannot afford health insurance.

"Just in (East Feliciana) parish, 90 percent of the kids are on free or reduced lunch," Hunt stated.

This new grant will partially fund construction of a new clinic on Highway 63 in Livingston.

"It's a small town," she said, "but it's got a lot of people that need health care services."

Among the terms of the grant is that the new clinic must be completed within 120 days. Hunt's team must open the clinic to patients by February 28. For a small organization, that is a tall task, but they also have to work around the holidays.

"So it knocks out approximately 2-3 weeks of that 120 days," she mentioned.

In addition to primary care, the clinic will also offer mental health and dental care services. Hunt said it will have a staff of roughly a dozen, including two nurse practitioners, two social workers, a dentist, and a dentist's assistant.

It will be the first sliding-scale clinic in Livingston Parish.

"While we're not a free clinic," Hunt noted, "we make the fees slide to an affordable rate for the family that's being served."

As a federally qualified health center, Primary Care Providers receives annual grant funding from HHS. But Hunt said that only accounts for 30 percent of its $9 million budget. Since the business community in East Feliciana Parish is small and donations are scarce, the rest of its funding comes from operational revenue.

Primary Care providers handled more than 60,000 visits to its seven clinics last year from nearly 12,000 patients. Hunt estimated that the Livingston location could see an additional 3,000 patients a year.

Overall, 12 organizations from Louisiana received a total of $6,945,126 from HHS.

The other local group to get a grant was Capitol City Family Health Center, Inc.

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