HRSA to dispense $600M to community health centers to bolster health IT

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President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will administer nearly $600 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) awards to support construction and health IT projects in community health centers around the U.S.

According to HRSA, the grants will support major construction and renovation projects at 85 community health centers and help networks of health centers adopt EHRs and other health IT systems.

“Together, these three initiatives—funding for construction, technology and a medical home demonstration project—won’t just save more money, and create more jobs, they’ll give more people the peace of mind of knowing that healthcare will be there for them and their families when they need it,” said Obama. “Ultimately, that’s what health reform is really about.”

To qualify for funding, a health facility must be a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, HRSA said. Grants of $508.5 million will be provided through the Facility Investment Program to address pressing health center facility needs. Also, as much as $88 million will be available to help Health Center Controlled Networks improve operational effectiveness and clinical quality in health centers by providing management, financial, technology and clinical support services, the agency said.

The new ARRA funds are the latest in a series of grants awarded to community health centers, which deliver preventive and primary care services at more than 7,500 service delivery sites around the country to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Health centers serve more than 17 million patients, about 40 percent of whom have no health insurance.

Both programs will be administered by the HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Obama also directed the HHS to implement a demonstration initiative designed to evaluate the impact of the advanced primary care practice model on access, quality and cost of care provided to Medicare beneficiaries served by community health centers.

This model, known as the “medical home,” promotes accessible, continuous and coordinated family-centered care. Developed and administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the demonstration will last three years. The CMS anticipates that up to 500 health centers will participate.

Those facilities that have already received Facility Investment Program grants can be accessed at the HRSA Website.