December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Nonprofit health agency again to receive $1M grant

LORAIN — The rapidly expanding health-care services provided to thousands in Lorain County by Lorain County Health & Dentistry will continue with word that the organization is receiving a federal grant of more than $1 million.

News of the funding came Friday from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, who announced a grant of $1,080,554 for the Lorain County-based health-care agency from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is a continuation of funds we currently receive and is appropriated annually by Congress for health centers like ours,” said Stephanie Wiersma, president and CEO of Lorain County Health & Dentistry.

The private nonprofit organization provides low-cost health-care services to thousands of adults and children. Most patient visits cost $20 to $25, based on income.

“This offsets the cost of uninsured care we provide,” Wiersma said.

The $1 million grant will fund the organization from March through the end of 2014, Wiersma said.

The bulk of services are provided from a renovated 40,000-square-foot brick building that opened in May 2013 in the former Gel-Pak building on Broadway. The $6 million project was made possible by funds allocated for development of local health facilities through the Affordable Care Act.

“By making health care convenient and affordable, people are less likely to use emergency rooms,” Wiersma said.

She characterized the grant as “a reflection of the quality of care we provide in meeting the needs of our intended population,” Wiersma said.

Moving from a leased building on Livingston Avenue in Lorain, the Broadway center saw about 40 staff relocate to provide women’s health, pediatric, dentistry and asthma/allergy services to 11,000 patients.

The number of patients served is expected to grow by several thousand as more professional and support staff are added, Wiersma said.

Since opening its major center in Lorain last summer, Lorain County Health & Dentistry has added a vision clinic funded by $250,000 that came from a collaboration of LCHD and about 50 Lions clubs.

Nord Family Foundation and Community Foundation of Lorain County also provided a portion of the money.

Earlier this month, LCHD opened a mobile medical clinic at Wilkes Villa.

Operating three days a week, the temporary clinic is designed to focus on children’s health care in the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority complex, which is deemed a medically underserved area.

“A significant barrier to health-care services is lack of transportation for those who can’t reach services elsewhere,” Wiersma said. “That’s why placing a smaller medical site in public housing is so important.”

The mobile clinic will be used until a permanent health clinic under construction is completed. The larger facility will enable the organization to add medical personnel.

“And it will be open to everyone, not just public housing residents,” Wiersma said.

Lorain County Health & Dentistry also is in the running for a five-year federal grant that would provide $750,000 annually for prenatal care through the Healthy Start Initiative, a federal effort designed to reduce infant mortality and eliminate disparities in populations for women’s, children’s and family health care, Wiersma said.

The grant application is a collaborative of LCHD and health departments in Elyria, Lorain and the county, as well as University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center and Mercy Regional Medical Center.

“This grant would be transformative in terms of targeting specific groups for infant mortality,” Wiersma said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.