Hope Clinic, which serves Ellis County’s uninsured and underinsured residents, is feeling the impact of the funding cuts looming on the national level.
On its federal funding, the clinic has been informed it can only draw 1/12th of the funding previously allotted ($167,000) for the next three months (March-May).
This effectively reduces the clinic’s federal funding during this time frame to $14,000 per month in lieu of the $54,000 per month it had been receiving.
Pending congressional action, it’s unclear what amount the clinic would receive after May.
Hope Clinic began receiving federal funding two years ago, when it was designated as a federally qualified health center, to serve Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The effect of the funding cut, at this time, means the clinic’s plans to increase its services by adding a full-time dentist and a nurse practitioner are now on hold.
“We are continuing to ask people to call Congressman (Joe) Barton and Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison to ask for their continued support of our funding (at the $54,000 level),” clinic CEO Dr. Mackie Owens said. “What we want, of course, is for funding to Hope Clinic to be restored. That will not only let us provide what we are doing today but will also let us expand to what we want to provide.”
Contacted for comment, Congressman Joe Barton, R-Arlington/Ennis, said he is supportive of the clinic but indicated pending funding cuts will affect all.
“Hope Clinic gives necessary medical care to thousands of people who need it most – the uninsured or underinsured who might otherwise fall through the cracks. I have been and remain a strong supporter of Hope Clinic’s mission. They work every day to heal people physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is truly an amazing place,” Congressman Joe Barton, R-Arlington/Ennis, said in a statement to the Daily Light.
“However, the fiscal situation in our nation is dire,” Barton said. “We have to start making across the board cuts and no agency or program should be off the table. I believe that community health centers – like Hope Clinic – will continue to play a vital role in our nation’s future, but just like everyone else these organizations will have to tighten their belts and provide that help with a little less money.”
Owens continues to hold out hope that the federally qualified health centers will be taken off of the cut list.
“It’s about funding what already is – and keeping that going,” Owens said, noting that Hope Clinic’s unduplicated patient count is up to 2,560, with those patients averaging three visits each on an annual basis. “Hope has always been a clinic that has received community funding; however, the addition of federal dollars gave us an opportunity to expand our services and add a building. If we don’t get the additional dollars (from the federal government), we would not be able to make up that amount of money from the community.
“It’s a lot of people, really, that we serve,” Owens said, citing the numbers as among the reasons the clinic wants to add staff members, especially a full-time dentist. “There are so many people who need dental care. We’re trying to provide a low-cost, cash-payment system for patients who need root canals, dentures and teeth pulled,” she said.
There are at least two impacts to the community-at-large if the dental service can be added through the funding’s restoration, Owens said.
The first impact will be to lessen the number of people who go to an emergency room in an attempt to access dental care, which would come at a greater cost than if the service is available at Hope Clinic.
The second impact is on the patients themselves.
“People who don’t have teeth have a hard time getting hired,” Owens said. “The ability to offer health care to our patients can help those people be contributing citizens by making it easier for them to get a job.”
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