Community Health Centers: Don’t Turn Down Federal Dollars

Posted on March 16, 2011

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By CODY BLOOMSBURG

HELENA — Community health center administrators from across the state came to the Capitol on Wednesday to try to persuade legislators not to reject $35 million in federal grants for electronic medical record systems.

So far, the Legislature has left the money on the table, making Montana the only state to turn it down.

The small centers provide primary care in rural areas and for the disadvantaged. Laurie Francis with the Montana Primary Care Association said the centers serve about one in 10 Montanans.

While Montana’s 17 centers would be competing for only $5 million of the grants, administrators said the funds were critical to helping them enhance their services and comply with a federal mandate.

Alicia Thompson, executive director of the health center in Great Falls, said that with or without the funds the federal government has mandated that centers have compatible electronic record systems.

Her center has already started to get a system online with other grant funding, but she said she doesn’t know how she can finish the project without help from the $5 million. Other centers, she said, were banking on the grant to comply with the mandate.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer met with the administrators and shared their dissent. But he would not take a stance on whether he would veto a budget that did not accept the government money.

– Reporter Cody Bloomsburg can be reached at 208-816-0809 or by e-mail at crbloomsburg@hotmail.com

Posted in: Daily Grind