The US Department of Health and Human Services is in line to receive $11 Billion in funding over the next 5 years for the operation, expansion and construction of health centers nationwide.  These funds will be made available through a nationwide competitive grant application process.  Our Bureau of Health Systems Development is the Arizona designated Primary Care Office, which means we’re the linkage between community health centers and workforce development, healthcare shortage designations, community development, technical assistance and Need for Assistance Worksheets.  All are components of the establishment, expansion and sustainability of a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

In August 2010, the HHS primary care program released $250M for New Access Points (basically new FQHCs) and substantially expanded the level of data sets a grant applicant would need to report on to establish need in a given community or area.  This is known as the Need for Assistance Worksheet.  Our staff has been working hard to update the database, gather data, establish a quality assurance process that’s used to produce the NFA Worksheet.  The worksheet looks at census tracts and provides a score that is based on specific core barriers to care and other health indicators to prioritize underserved areas in need of more healthcare resources.

On October 26, 2010 HHS released another $335M for existing community health centers nationwide under the Expanded Services Initiative.  These funds are intended for increased access to preventive and primary health care, including dental health, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, and/or enabling services at existing health center sites.  Grant applications are due on January 6, 2011.

What does all of this mean for Arizona? Potentially new health centers and the expansion of services (hours of operation, more doctors, dentists, addition of onsite pharmacy, etc) at existing centers will result in the near future from these grant funds.  Today there are 16 federally qualified health center organizations in Arizona with over 100 physical locations statewide.  The availability of funding will provide a great opportunity for growth of FQHCs in Arizona and nationwide while improving access to care.  This also provides us with a unique opportunity to build better linkages between primary/acute healthcare and psychiatry because the expansion initiative for community health centers includes both acute/primary care as well as behavioral health.

Do you know where the nearest Community Health Center is to your house?  Cure your curiosity by using this HHSs Electronic Tool.