(Posted May 21, 2015)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Federal funding is making possible increased access to affordable health care in Madison County.
Rocking Horse Community Health Center, based in Springfield, was awarded a $650,000 grant for each of the next two years to operate a new health center in London. The center will be located in the Madison County Health Partners Free Clinic facility on the Madison Health campus. The target opening date is Aug. 30.
Federally qualified health centers serve areas identified as low-income and in need of more access to medical care. Anyone is welcome, but the focus is on patients who are uninsured, on Medicaid, have insurance but struggle to afford high deductibles, or whose insurance is not accepted by local providers.
Madison County is designated as a medically underserved population with over 30 percent of the population being uninsured. Half of the residents of London are below 100 percent of the poverty level.
Funding for the center comes from Affordable Care Act funds administered by the United States Department of Health & Human Services. In total, Ohio received over $7 million from the New Access Point grant program. Rocking Horse was the only health center in southwest Ohio to receive funding in the competitive grant process.
Rocking Horse partnered with the Madison County Free Clinic to write the grant. Melissa Canney, executive director of the Free Clinic, said the community’s needs have changed since the clinic opened 10 years ago. By design, the clinic only sees uninsured patients and relies almost exclusively on volunteers to provide care. With the Affordable Care Act, more people now have health insurance, and with that comes more need for access to affordable, primary care.
“We realized that the clinic was reaching a crossroads, and we wanted to provide greater access to health care for our residents. Rocking Horse Center will do just that,” Canney said. “I’m really happy for the community. I’ve been proud to be part of the Free Clinic, and I will be proud to work with Rocking Horse.”
The Free Clinic will merge with Rocking Horse. The plan, said Chris Cook, Rocking Horse CEO, is to offer primary health care the first year, then add behavioral health services the second year. At full operation, the center will employ 14 full-time staffers and one part-time staffer, from a physician and nurse practitioner to eligibility enrollment specialists.
Cook said that a good relationship with the hospital, now under the direction of former Rocking Horse Center CEO Dana Engle, helped to make the health center possible.
“Knowing what a great organization Rocking Horse is and what it will bring to Madison County is exciting,” Engle said.
Cook said his organization has received an overwhelming amount of support from the hospital, Free Clinic, legislators, and city and county officials.
“It’s clear to me that we all have the same goal in mind: Let’s make Madison County a healthy place to raise a family in Ohio.”
In total, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $101 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 164 new community health centers in 33 states and two U.S. territories. The new health centers are projected to increase access to health care services for nearly 650,000 patients. They are in addition to the 550 new health center sites that have opened in the last four years as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Go to http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/index.html for more about the federal health center program.
Go to www.rockinghorsecenter.org to learn more about the Rocking Horse Health Center.