Stimulus money to benefit Lubbock health coverage - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/3/09

Stimulus money to benefit Lubbock health coverage

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - $14.4 million will soon go to 12 Texas health care centers, and the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center is at the top of that list. TTUHSC says they will use their portion of that money to expand services at the Larry Combest Community Health & Wellness Center.

School leaders say they've been working to expand coverage at the Combest Center for years, but new funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have now made it possible. "We were anticipating that it might happen, but we actually didn't think it would happen this quickly," TTU HSC Perry School of Nursing Dean and Professor Alexia Green said.

Green says they've worked hard to turn the Combest Center into a full, Federally Qualified Health Center for years. "We've been, literally, working on this for seven years," Green said. 

The Combest Center serves underinsured and uninsured patients. Two years ago, leaders submitted the grant request that would allow them to expand care. The Health Sciences Center's proposal scored high, but there just wasn't enough money to fund it. Now, there is. "These new dollars and this new designation, we'll be able to expand our services almost twofold, to over 5,000 patients," Green said. 

"This is going to help us fly and provide much more, needed medical assistance to people in our community," President of the Larry Combest Community Health & Wellness Center Board of Directors Severo Alvarado said.  

The community board partnered with the Health Sciences Center to make the Combest Center possible. "51% of our members are community members and users of the clinic. So, we are aware of the medical needs of this community," Alvarado said. 

The new funding and designation will allow the center to hire more nurse practitioners, and hopefully allow them to add mental health and transportation services. "I think this just brings a great opportunity for Lubbock citizens to access care; it expands opportunities for employment, and infuses more dollars into this community. So, I guess the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going to make a difference here in Lubbock, Texas," Green said. 

Green tells NewsChannel 11 the Federally Qualified Health Center initiative actually started under the Bush administration. She says it appears the Obama administration carried that need forward with the new funding.

Governor Rick Perry has criticized the stimulus plan and says he may reject some of the funds. Green tells us that shouldn't affect this grant, because it is not distributed through the state.

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