Grant of $800,000 to help fund community health center

Doug Smith, left, and Dr. Tom Irons are leading construction of the James D. Bernstein Community Health Center, set to open in December. Photo by Cliff Hollis
GREENVILLE, N.C.  (Sept. 14, 2006)  —  An $800,000 federal grant will help fund operating costs for a local community health center set to open in December.

The James D. Bernstein Community Health Center is one of 29 health centers across the country to share in $10 million in grants announced in August by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The center is near the intersection of N.C. 33 and N.C. 11.

The grant officially goes to Greene County Health Care of Snow Hill. The grant will cover 16 months of operating expenses at the 15,000-square-foot center. After that, it is renewable for approximately $600,000 a year. The money will allow center leaders to begin interviewing and hiring staff members, including physicians.

"It was plan A," Doug Smith, president and chief executive of Greene County Health Care, said of the grant. "We had a plan B but fortunately didn't have to use it."

Access East, an independent, charitable, non-profit organization, is building and will own the center. That group, the East Carolina University Division of Health Sciences and Eastern Carolina Community Health Centers, a division of Greene County Health Care, will operate the center. To be eligible for grants such as the HRSA one, the center must meet certain requirements such as providing programs specifically for the uninsured and turning no patients away.

With 35 years of experience operating health centers in Greene, Pitt and Wayne counties, Greene County Health Care was the obvious choice to operate the center, Irons said.

"We have to demonstrate we can produce top-quality results to sustain funding and get new funding," said Dr. Tom Irons, East Carolina University associate vice chancellor for regional health services and board member of Access East. "We together decided Greene County Health Care was the most qualified entity to lead a community-based health care center."

When it opens, the center will include 16 medical exam rooms, eight dental operatories and areas for audiology, X-ray, social work and other services, many of which arent available at local health departments. Pitt County public health, social services and mental health departments will provide services as well. The center will also will have space for meetings and educational programs for the community and health sciences students. Patients will be seen primarily by appointment.

The land and site development, valued at $538,500, were donated by E.R. Lewis Construction. The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust pledged $300,000, the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation pledged $225,000, The Duke Endowment pledged $200,000 and the N.C. Office of Rural Health committed $200,000 toward construction. Funds from other state and federal agencies and private foundations and individuals are pending, Irons said.

Elsewhere in North Carolina, the Goshen Medical Center in Faison received $831,000. The North Carolina centers received the two largest grants in this round of funding.

The PMH Foundation raises and distributes money for projects at Pitt County Memorial Hospital and community health projects within Pitt County.

The Duke Endowment was established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James Buchanan Duke. Its mission is to serve the people of North Carolina and South Carolina by supporting higher education, health care, children's welfare and spiritual life. The endowment ranks among the largest foundations in the nation, with grants since 1924 totaling more than $2 billion.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was created in 1947 by the will of Mrs. William Neal Reynolds of Winston-Salem. It's one of the largest foundations in North Carolina, with assets of more than $500 million. Three-fourths of the trust's grants are designated for health-related programs and services across North Carolina,

Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481