SITKA - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium was awarded $4.1 million in four health care-related grants when President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, also known as the economic stimulus bill) on Feb. 17, 2009.
When the economic stimulus bill was signed a year ago, SEARHC was awarded:
Indian Health Service (IHS) Facilities funding through the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) to replace and/or repair the roof, siding and windows at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Capital Improvement Program funding for the expansion and renovation of the SEARHC Hydaburg Health Center.
IHS Equipment funding through ANTHC to replace an outdated x-ray machine at the SEARHC Haines Health Center.
And HRSA Increased Demand For Services funding to expand its dental health aide program so it can provide preventive dental interventions at SEARHC health centers in five communities: Angoon, Kake, Hydaburg, Klawock and Haines.
In addition to the four grants, the SEARHC Office of Environmental Health also provided technical assistance to three water system upgrade grants worth nearly $1.4 million to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for projects in Angoon, Kake and Hoonah. Once the water facilities are finished, they will be transferred to the local communities.
"The economic stimulus bill has made a substantial difference in our health programs and in our communities," SEARHC Chief Operating Officer Frank Sutton said. "We have been able to renovate and modernize some of our facilities and equipment, and even to add one staff member, so we can provide better health care to our patients."
The economic stimulus bill provided a one-time funding of nearly $2 billion for community health centers around the country so they could expand care and create jobs. Community health centers provide care to 1.8 million patients, and more than 600,000 of them are uninsured. Many users of community health centers live in remote areas where the centers are the only health care facility in the community.
"For (health centers), health care isn't just about diagnosing patients and treating illness - it's about caring for people and promoting wellness," President Obama recently said about community health centers. "It's about emphasizing education and prevention, and helping people lead healthier lives so they don't get sick in the first place. And it works. Studies show that people living near a health center are less likely to go to the emergency room and less likely to have unmet critical medical needs."