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Diversity Health clinic's funding ailing

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POSTED: April 21, 2007 5:02 a.m.
Just months in existence, funding has already become an issue for the Diversity Health Center.
The primary care facility opened inside the Liberty County Health Department in November with a $500,000 start-up grant from the Georgia General Assembly but staffing, renovations and covering uninsured patients are causing funds to evaporate.
Diversity’s board of directors filed an application with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in December to become a federally qualified health center, which would make it eligible for up to $650,000 in federal funding each year, but a decision is not expected until late summer or early fall.
With the state grant’s “use it or lose it” deadline approaching, however, Diversity Medical Director Russell Toal said the center’s board has asked for an extra $395,000 in “bridge funding” from the General Assembly while it awaits the judgment from HHS. 
“Our current grant is scheduled to end June 30. Any money that we have as of June 30 ordinarily would have to be returned to the state,” he said. “What we’ve said is we need funds to get us to the point when the federal money arrives.”
According to Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) though, more money from the state is unlikely.
“The Senate leadership is well aware of the Diversity Health Center request. We are also aware that, like PeachCare, the federal government will eventually fund their obligations,” Johnson, who was instrumental in getting the start-up funds, said. “At this time, we believe the state has met its obligation to fund the start-up costs. No further funding is anticipated.”
In the absence of financial support from the state, Toal said he and Johnson’s office discussed the option of having the current deadline extended through the 2008 fiscal year. 
The senator’s spokesman Marshall Guest confirmed the idea has been floated around, but said Johnson has not made any commitments to seek an extension.
As state and federal funding issues are worked through, Toal noted other financial avenues are available to keep the center afloat.
“We’ll be billing for services for people who have any kind of health insurance, whether it’s Medicare, Medicaid or TRICARE,” he said. “We’ll generate some amount of revenue.”
He also believes strongly Diversity will eventually receive the funding needed to grow and expand services in the community.  
“Everybody has been so supportive of the center and the need for it is so obvious,” Toal said. “I feel certain we’ll get some level of support from the state and hopefully the federal government.”
 

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