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 and 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 allows center leaders to begin interviewing and hiring staff members, including physicians.
|Tom Irons speaks during a tour of the newly funded community health center. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
“It was plan A,” Doug Smith, president and chief executive of Greene County Health Care, said. “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 aren’t available at local health departments. Pitt County public health, social services and mental health departments will provide services as well. The center will have space for meetings and educational programs for community and health sciences students.
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.