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Liberty loses bid for Health grant
Long County may fare better
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There was bad news — and good news — for Diversity Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent round of Federally Qualified Health Center grant announcements.
Diversity’s board of directors filed a grant application with HHS in December, and were hoping the overwhelming need for affordable primary care and unique population of Liberty County would make the center appealing in the minds of grant officials.
“Unfortunately,” Liberty County Health Department Administrator Deidre Michelson said during this month’s Liberty County Board of Health meeting, “in the last round of announcements, we did not get selected to receive funding right now.”
The department, rather than fund a large number of new counties, opted to use the current round of grant money to fund counties that previously received the FQHC distinction and were unable to actually receive funds, according to a source speaking on condition of anonymity.
But while the Liberty County Diversity site was denied FQHC standing that would have made it eligible for up to $650,000 in federal funding annually and provide access to a number of national health programs, a planned branch in Long County appears to be a good prospect for the federal grant.
Residents from the neighboring county have comprised a sizable portion of Diversity’s repeat and new clients since it opened in November. With its sliding pay scale and acceptance of Medicaid and Medicare insurance, the center has become popular within a county where 17.6 percent of families live under the federal poverty level, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
Taking this into account, Diversity board members filed a new application with HHS to create an extension site in Long County that would allow residents to have access to the center’s services in their own backyard.
Long County Health Department Office Manager Angela Gunter, noting the strain of healthcare costs and transportation issues, said Diversity’s services would be a welcome addition for the county.
“It would definitely help our population that is called ‘in the gap’— those without insurance — with their medical needs,” she said. “And certainly it would help stop some of the transportation problems.”
The site would also help with providing services to the growing Hispanic population in Long County, Diversity Medical Director Russ Toal said.
“Our FQHC application for Long County included an outreach case manager for the approximately 5,000 to 6,000 Hispanic/Latinos in the western end of Long County who have no access to regular care,” he said.
With 120 applications submitted and HHS projecting to fund 120 FQHCs, barring any drastic changes, the outlook for a Diversity branch in Long County is bright. A final decision on the county's application is expected sometime in the fall.

Doors will stay open
Although Liberty County was unlucky in the recent funding awards, Toal said there is no need to worry about Diversity closing its doors.
“The existing (Georgia) Office of Rural Health grant under which Diversity operates was extended through the next state fiscal year, so we'll be carrying forward with a significant amount of those dollars,” the medical director said. “We're not going to diminish our operations at all.”
The center’s board members had requested an extension on the original $500,000 ORH grant in the spring, while it was awaiting the HHS’ decision and wrangling with the Georgia legislature over a possible second grant.
Without the extension, money still available from the grant would have become void after Saturday. The funds can be used through June 30, 2008.
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