U.S. health official praises Lawrence's Heartland Community Health Center for work, earning $650,000 renewable annual grant

U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Regional Director Jay Angoff visits with Allison Veeder, an advanced practice registered nurse with Heartland Community Health Center, during a reception Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at Heartland. Angoff applauded the health center for its efforts to care for anyone regardless of their health status and ability to pay. In June, HHS announced that Heartland would receive a renewable, annual grant of $650,000 as part of being named a Federally Qualified Health Center. Pictured at left is Cindy Hart, of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Regional Director Jay Angoff visits with Allison Veeder, an advanced practice registered nurse with Heartland Community Health Center, during a reception Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at Heartland. Angoff applauded the health center for its efforts to care for anyone regardless of their health status and ability to pay. In June, HHS announced that Heartland would receive a renewable, annual grant of $650,000 as part of being named a Federally Qualified Health Center. Pictured at left is Cindy Hart, of Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. by Nick Krug

U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Regional Director Jay Angoff praised Lawrence’s Heartland Community Health Center for providing medical care to anyone regardless of their health status and income.

“You are really doing God’s work, and it really is a very heartening thing to see,” he said, during a brief presentation Wednesday at the clinic, which was attended by about 40 residents, including Douglas County commissioners Nancy Thellman and Jim Flory and leaders from nonprofit community health organizations.

Angoff visited Heartland, located in the east end of the Riverfront Mall, to officially congratulate its staff and board on receiving a $650,000 renewable annual federal grant in June as part of being designated a Federally Qualified Health Center. The clinic also will receive enhanced Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement and at-cost drug pricing.

“The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has and will always have a soft spot in her heart for Kansas. That doesn’t mean you were given any preferential treatment,” he said, of former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, which provoked laughter from the crowd. “You got the award you deserve, and she’s particularly happy to be able to give it.”

The grant will allow the center to hire more staff and purchase equipment that will enable it to provide more services and take care of more people. The center currently has about 5,000 patients, and Heartland CEO Jon Stewart expects that to double in the first year.

Angoff said he was pleased that Heartland addresses mental health needs because so many people don’t seek help because of the stigma associated with it. He also praised Heartland’s ability to provide a variety of preventive services such as smoking-cessation classes, a walking program and a diabetes program.

“It’s terrific when we can take people who already are sick, but it’s even better when we can do things to prevent people from getting sick in the first place,” he said.

Angoff also touted President Barack Obama’s health care law, called the Affordable Care Act, during his visit and said Heartland’s grant was one of the benefits of it. He said community health centers, like Heartland, have received about $37 million under the Affordable Care Act, and that money could be in jeopardy if the law is overturned.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this is a grant under the Affordable Care Act and if anything were to happen to the Affordable Care Act, this money would no longer be there,” he said.

Dr. Raul Morffi, medical director at Heartland, described the grant as a “really big deal.” He’s hoping that it will allow him to go from working one day a week at the clinic to becoming a full-time staff member.

Morffi said he worked in a Federally Qualified Health Center in Salina for three years during his residency and has seen firsthand the opportunities such a designation can create. He said not only will the grant allow them to take care of more patients, but it will also allow educational opportunities for students, ranging from nurses to nutritionists. In Salina, the clinic provided dental services, and he would like to see those added at Heartland as well.

Morffi said not only can the uninsured population benefit from the clinic, but also people who require more health care than the average person, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure. For example, he said Heartland can provide coaches to help hold people more accountable for their behaviors by checking in with them on a weekly basis.

“It works. We see patients that probably would have just floundered in a lot of private practice clinics that I would have worked in, but the system is working for them here,” he said.

Tagged: Affordable Care Act, uninsured, safety net clinic, community health centers, Heartland Community Health Center

Comments

focusedonfitness 1 year, 9 months ago

How fantastic! Congratulations to everyone at HCHC for all of their hard work and such a great grant!

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Marilyn Hull 1 year, 9 months ago

Congrats to HCHC on a wonderful accomplishment and a fine event. The movie you showed was fantastic!

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mikekt 1 year, 9 months ago

The biggest hole in dental services, in Lawrence, is in emergency after hours/available/weekend/regular evening service, for the urgent/semi-urgent needs dental needs patients & service accessibility for appointments, as the poor often work during weekly business hours & bookings for people are not available same day for the sudden major type of dental problem/pain , that comes from lack of basic care access, that turns critical.

Where do they go? To the after hours ER for a $3,000 dollar bill, for an antibiotic & short term pain medication., which is no solution to a real problem and or a costly bill that probably goes uncollectible for the hospital. That's a real solution?! Helps the cost of everyones' insurance?!..... Right!

We need to get over being angry at the poor & the struggling.......because everyone can't obviously be rich.... enough.....or there wouldn't be a society, such as we have, were some can be way, way richer, than others!

Sorry,we can't have our cake & economically choke on it, too! Unless you are up, for suffering & death panels, for those that aren't rich enough, for the readers tastes, good personal fortunes or fears of poorer folks (some people got nobody else to hate because their lives are so great!)

Treat them like dirt & pay extra for your health insurance/hospital services because of ER Dental Costs that go unpaid. That's smart!.... Really?!

I would hope that they (HCHC) can work with the Douglas County Dental Clinic (DCDC) because it sounds as if DCDC is marginally funded (and their marginal income carries some of the no pay, poorest of the poor Douglas County folks, using their Medicaid income, to stay afloat (?) & a well intended expansion into dentistry by HCHC, could sink both of their ships; i.e., kill off one financially challenged provider.....and overload another new provider, who has not the capacity of both of them functioning......rationally.....together, to meat the real needs of the poorest & underserved, which is where the rubber meets the road.

I understand that both of these organizations have their own operating cultures. I just hope that they can co-function/plan together to fill in the holes in services available to the poor residents, that would help people to not end up in the ER! Seems reasonable (?), to me.

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