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Brazos Valley benefits from Perry's health care plan

By KELLI LEVEY

Eagle Staff Writer

The Brazos Valley Community Action Agency has been awarded more than $260,000 from the state, which it plans to put toward opening a health center in Hearne.

The funding is part of more than $3.6 million in state incubator grants announced by Gov. Rick Perry to help communities in expanding health care services to low-income families and the uninsured. The other recipients were spread throughout the state.

The money is awarded through the Texas Department of Health as part of Senate Bill 610, a component of Perry’s health care plan for the state. The funds were designed to help draw additional federal money to increase the number of federally qualified health centers in the state.

The state has 181 federally qualified centers in 58 counties that provide health care to 483,452 patients — of which more than 59 percent are uninsured, according to state documents.

The grants will help communities assess their needs, develop a health-care delivery model and assist in the federal grant application process or acquiring additional equipment.

The Bryan-based community action agency, which serves residents from around the Brazos Valley, already had planned to apply for federal funding for such a health center in 2005, administrator Eric Todd said.

“This money is set aside as a precursor for entities interested in setting up the new centers,” he said. “This gives us one year of funding to get our medical component in place so when we do apply, we’re that much further along.”

The clinic is scheduled to open in January with a part-time pediatrician and a family nurse practitioner, Todd said.

The goal is to provide services for 4,000 uninsured and underprivileged patients.

About $60,000 of the state grant will be used for building renovations, while $220,000 will be used for staff and supplies, such as computer equipment and examination tables, Todd said.

In addition to health services, the action agency also provides job placement and assistance, emergency rental assistance, child care, health services, counseling, meals and help with getting benefits.

In August, Perry announced $3 million in federal awards to establish six new federally qualified health centers in the state.

This was the first round of awards by the state health department. Additional incubator grants are expected early next year.

• Kelli Levey’s e-mail address is klevey@theeagle.com.

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