The Community Health Center of Burlington on Wednesday was awarded $10.9 million in federal stimulus funds for construction of a new building that will double the center’s size and allow it to serve more patients throughout Chittenden County. President Obama made the announcement at a White House ceremony. “I want to thank the many members of Congress who are with us today both in the audience and up on the stage, particularly Bernie Sanders and Representative Jim Clyburn,” Obama said. “We are grateful for all that you've done.” Sanders and Clyburn, the South Carolina congressman who is the No. 3 leader in the House of Representatives, are leading the effort to significantly expand health centers as part of an overhaul of the nation’s health system that is working its way through Congress.
“We are making significant progress in improving access to affordable primary health care in Vermont. In the last few years we have gone from two Federally Qualified Health Centers to eight, and now more than 100,000 Vermonters get their primary care at these centers,” Sanders said. “The new Burlington center will expand services for more patients from throughout the community at a much-improved facility.” The Burlington center offers primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs to some 13,000 residents of Chittenden County. The project will expand access at the center’s current site in Burlington’s Old North End, the most densely populated urban neighborhood in Vermont. The health center also is a significant economic engine in a part of the city that has been seriously impacted by the recession.
“This is quite simply a transformational grant for our organization, community and patients,” said Grace Gilbert-Davis, interim executive director of the Burlington center, who traveled to Washington, D.C., for the White House ceremony. “On behalf of the community health center, we are deeply honored to have this incredible chance to turn our dreams into reality for community residents in need of access to affordable health care.”
Burlington was among more than 80 centers out of 620 applicants nationwide that won a share of $525 million in one-time competitive grants. The funding is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus package. The winning health centers had to demonstrate that proposed projects would improve access to health care and create jobs.
Earlier this year, the eight community health centers throughout Vermont received almost $5 million in economic stimulus funds to address immediate and pressing facility and equipment needs. The Vermont centers also shared $1.5 million to expand services and create jobs. Separately, Springfield Hospital was awarded $1.3 million to become Vermont’s eighth Federally Qualified Health Center.
The other centers are the Community Health Centers of The Rutland Region in Bomoseen, Little Rivers Health Care of Bradford; Community Health Services of the Lamoille Valley in Morrisville; The Health Center of Plainfield; Northern Tier Community Health in Richford; Northern Counties Health Care in St. Johnsbury, and the Springfield Medical Care Systems in Springfield.
Altogether, the Vermont centers and 40 satellite offices provide primary health care to more than 100,000 patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Nationwide, a total of $2 billion was set aside for Federally Qualified Health Centers in the economic recovery bill that Congress passed last February 13.
To read the remarks by President Obama, click here.