Millions awarded to Big Island health centers

Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will help Big Island health centers provide needed care.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced this week that the department will award 14 community health centers in Hawaii a total of $28.7 million.

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“This funding will give these centers the resources to continue providing comprehensive health services to Hawaii families where they are needed most,” Schatz said in a news release.

Community health centers provide comprehensive, high-quality primary health care services to medically underserved individuals and families.

On the Big Island, community health centers receiving funding are West Hawaii Community Health Center, which is receiving $2.5 million; Hamakua-Kohala Health Centers, which is receiving $1.4 million; and The Bay Clinic, which is receiving $1.7 million.

Milton Cortez, chief operations officer for Hamakua-Kohala Health said the money is for ongoing grants to be used for existing operational costs throughout the next three years.

According to Cortez, the money is used to fund the cost of providers as well as operations.

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“For us, it’s about 33 to 40 percent (of those operation costs),” he said. “It’s a pretty big chunk.”

“These funds help to provide primary care services to uninsured and underinsured patients, as well as provide services that address health education and outreach,” said Richard Taaffe, CEO of West Hawaii Community Health Center. “The intent is to increase access to direct primary care for low income patients.”

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