The Verde Valley received a piece of President Barack Obama’s health care money, and now Yavapai County has to hurry up and spend it.
The county received $254,166 from a United States Health Resources and Services Administration grant through the federal stimulus package within two weeks of submitting an application.
“This is the first stimulus money that’s arrived in the county to my knowledge,” Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis said.
The application was submitted in mid-March, the grant awarded two weeks later and the money was to be in use by March 27, according to Peggy Nies, county director of community health centers.
“I can’t even spend the money fast enough,” Nies said. More people have to be hired to expand services, which the county is in the process of doing.
And the good news for this side of the mountain is, all the money ended up in Cottonwood, Nies said.
The grant will be used at Cottonwood’s primary health care center and dental center.
The philosophy behind the grant is “increase demand for services,” according to Nies. Since the economy slumped, community health centers are seeing more patients.
“We’ve got people coming in for the first time,” Nies said.
Doctors at the medical center see approximately 450 patients per month.
Since the dental office opened in November, 195 patients have been treated. The center started its first month with 50 patients. By March, that number was up to 90.
“Now more than ever we’re seeing the critical need,” Davis said. People who have never had to access government programs for assistance are coming into the center.
At the primary care center, Nies said the money will be used for budget shortfalls caused by the state of Arizona cutting funding to the center. The center will be able to retain one medical provider that would have been cut otherwise. People from all socioeconomic groups are using the county’s services.
The funding for the dental center will be used to expand the current level of service. One dentist treats patients two days a week – Tuesday and Thursday. The grant money will pay for an additional dentist to be hired to see patients for two more days each week, a part-time office manager and a part-time dental assistant.
The medical center is open to any Arizona resident but different fees apply based on whether an individual has insurance or not. Nies said approximately half of the patients don’t have insurance, one-third are on Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid program, and the rest are covered under private policies.
“It’s truly a community health center,” Nies said. “You could come here if you were a millionaire.”
Once a patient establishes the county medical center as his or her primary health care provider, the patient can also be treated at the dental center. However, if a person is not a patient of a county doctor, dental services are not available.