By Sara J. Korash-Schiff
Rockbridge Area Health Center has learned it will receive a $775,000 New Access Point Grant to become a Federally Qualified Health Center, a designation that will enable RAHC to strengthen its services to the community.
“As a free clinic we saw patients for free and they came here for free,” said Katy Datz, the center’s development director. “As a FQHC we will see patients who have insurance and we will bill their insurance companies for reimbursement, specifically Medicaid and Medicare. Medicaid will make up about 50% of our budget.”
Datz says her main concern is for continued community donor support, since the clinic relies on 25-30 percent of its funding from local donations.
“All this is really exciting and it is a large sum of money, but we will continue to rely on the philanthropic community and volunteers,” said Datz.
RAHC found out Thursday, Nov. 7, that as of Nov. 1 it has 120 days to establish the standards required to become a fully operational FQHC.
The grant is a result of the Affordable Care Act and a community health needs assessment that RAHC conducted in 2010, in partnership with over 30 local organizations.
After the Affordable Care Act was signed in 2010, RAHC received a grant from the federal government to do the comprehensive needs assessment.
Datz said “one of the primary goals that came out of that yearlong assessment” was to expand the community health center’s services.
Community health centers are on the front line of helping uninsured residents enroll in the new health insurance options offered under the Affordable Care Act.
According to its mission statement, “The Rockbridge Area Health Center (formerly the Rockbridge Area Free Clinic) is a community-based nonprofit organization providing quality health care for uninsured and underinsured residents.”
Datz says that although RAHC has tried to adapt its business model since the Affordable Care Act was signed, its mission hasn’t changed.
“We will still continue to see uninsured individuals in our community,” said Datz. “We’re still providing the service to the people that are in the most need.”
Datz says there will be one major change for RAHC.
“We will still provide the same services we have always provided,” said Datz. “We’ve just expanded to be able to offer more services.”
The clinic will expand to have four more examining rooms, for a total of eight, and an electronic record system for better tracking.
Another major change is that RAHC will be hiring a new doctor.
Dr. Jane Sailer has been a volunteer at RAHC for years and will now be the center’s first paid full-time onsite physician.
She says, “It has always felt good to be a part of meeting the healthcare needs of those who cannot afford insurance.”
Sailer’s responsibilities will include patient care, developing and monitoring policies for quality assurance, staff development and health outcome measures.
She says that the biggest problem with healthcare in the Rockbridge area is, “Hands down, access to care.”
Sailer says that making healthcare accessible to everyone is difficult because of financial, transportation, scheduling, language and cultural barriers in the Rockbridge area.
To learn more about the federal funding and the requirements for RAHC to become an FQHC visit: http://health.academic.wlu.edu