Wilkes County Health Department Receives Federal Grant to Expand Primary Care

On Thursday December 15th Wilkes County Health Department along with the co-applicant Wilkes Community Health Center, was among the newly announced Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) New Access Point grant recipients. Wilkes County Health Department was one of the six funded sites in North Carolina, and one in 75 across the nation. Wilkes County Health Department was awarded $793,324 for the first year of the grant with $650,000 awarded the following years. The new access point will allow the Wilkes County Health Department to open the Wilkes County Health Center as a federally qualified health center (FQHC) to expand and provide primary health care needs to the residents of Wilkes County. To date in 2016, the Health Department provided nearly 6,700 medical, screening and enabling visits to 2,800 patients. By the end of year 2018, Wilkes County Health Center’s goal is to serve over 4,500 patients.

High rates of uninsured adults and chronic disease in Wilkes County, has presented challenges in maintaining the current level of services with increasing costs and reduced funding available to meet these needs. Wilkes County also has 50.3% of its residents living below the 200% federal poverty level. The new HRSA FQHC funding will allow Wilkes Community Health Center to expand the services the health department offers, and become an integral and integrated player in the health care delivery system. With the funding Wilkes Community Health Center will be able to provide adult and child primary health care, medications, and other enabling services for both adults and children.

Currently, the Health Center will operate and function in the Wilkes County Health Department. The Health Center does have plans to eventually move off site to meet the growth demands of additional patients.

Additional benefits include federal loan repayment for providers, free malpractice insurance, enhanced Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, and funds to help cover the uninsured patients. It also provides the agency additional opportunities to apply for more grants that are only available to active federally qualified health center sites.

The health center co-applicant board will be made up of 51% of health center patients. In return, the health center hopes to provide quality primary care with patients’ needs in mind. “Community health centers are the best model of consumer directed health care and will nicely complement health promotion and preventive services at the health department,” said E. Benjamin Money, President and CEO of the NC Community Health Center Association.

“We are so pleased to be able to receive this opportunity to increase our services at the Wilkes Community Health Center and the Wilkes County Health Department with this federal grant.  We appreciate the assistance of The Health Foundation with resources to support the grant application. The Wilkes County Board of Health, the Wilkes Community Health Center Board and I would like to thank our community partners for their continued assistance and support to improve the health care needs of Wilkes County. With this grant, we will be able to expand health care services offered through the new center at the health department.” said Ann Absher, Health Director.

In the coming months ahead the Wilkes County Health Department, Wilkes Community Health Center, and community partners will come together to implement a comprehensive plan that will further enhance the primary care needs of Wilkes County citizens.

To learn more connect with us on facebook, twitter or logging on to www.wilkeshealth.com. If you have any additional questions, please contact Ann Absher at 336-651-7464 or aabsher@wilkescounty.net

“This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number H80CS30715. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.”