Release: $5 Million in Stimulus Funds for Vermont Health Centers

WASHINGTON, June 29 –Eight community health centers in Vermont will receive almost $4.9 million in economic stimulus funds to address immediate and pressing facility and equipment needs.

“We are finally making real progress in addressing the primary health care crisis in our country,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has spearheaded a dramatic expansion of health centers in Vermont and across the country.

“With 60 million Americans not having regular access to a doctor, we have a major shortage of primary health care physicians, dentists, nurses and other medical personnel,” Sanders added. “The good news is that Congress is beginning to address that crisis by doubling the amount of money going to community health centers and tripling the amount of money for the National Health Service Corps, which will substantially increase the number of primary health care doctors, dentists and nurses. We have a long way to go but we are beginning to make some progress.”

The $4.9 million is Vermont’s latest allotment from $2 billion that was set aside for Federally Qualified Health Centers in the economic recovery bill that Congress passed last February 13. A member of the Senate health committee, Sanders helped take the lead in doubling funding under the stimulus bill for health centers.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, “Community health centers are an invaluable component of providing health care especially in rural areas like much of Vermont.   As we engage in a national debate around truly reforming our health care system, our community health centers are providing Vermonters patient-centered care that will continue as we move forward.  These funds from the economic recovery plan will direct resources to our eight centers to help them reach more Vermonters and make vital upgrades to their facilities and equipment.”

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said, “As Congress debates the best way to reform the nation’s health care system, one thing is clear: we must ensure Vermonters have access to quality, local health services. These recovery funds will help our community health centers provide critical services to Vermonters who need them most. By investing in these centers, we are investing in Vermonters’ health.”

The Vermont grants include $877,690 for Community Health Centers of The Rutland Region in Bomoseen; $485,900 for Little Rivers Health Care of Bradford; $699,995 for Community Health Center of Burlington; $717,500 for Community Health Services of the Lamoille Valley in Morrisville; $462,310 for The Health Center of Plainfield;  $519,220 for the Richford Health Center in Richford; $881,820 for Northern Counties Health Care in St. Johnsbury, and $250,000 for Springfield Medical Care Systems in Springfield.

The centers provide affordable primary care, dental care, mental health services and low-cost prescription drugs.  A cost-effective alternative to hospital emergency rooms, community health centers offer basic services like prenatal care, childhood immunizations and cancer screenings. Open to everyone, the centers care for patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance as well as those who have no insurance.

The Vermont grants are part of $851 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act capital improvement program grants.  The grants will support the construction, repair and renovation of over 1,500 health centers nationwide. More than 650 centers will use the funds to purchase new equipment or health information technology systems, and nearly 400 health centers will adopt and expand the use of electronic health records.

In an earlier round of stimulus funds for Vermont, the eight community health centers shared more than $1.5 million to expand services and create jobs.

Separately, Springfield Hospital earlier this year was awarded $1.3 million to become Vermont’s eighth Federally Qualified Health Center. With that addition, health centers will provide primary health care to more than 100,000 Vermonters regardless of their ability to pay.