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Medical clinic seeks $2 million in bond funds for East Austin location

Thursday, July 19, 2012 by Josh Rosenblatt

The People’s Community Clinic, which provides medical services for more than 10,000 low income and uninsured Austinites, wants the city to add $2 million to this November’s bond package to help pay for a new primary care clinic in East Austin.

The proposed location, at the corner of Zach Scott Street and Manor Road, would allow the clinic to serve an historically underserved area with severe unmet medical needs.

The request is a late addition to what is shaping up to be a $400 million bond package that Austin voters will be asked to approve this November. The chief reason for clinic’s late request is it recently learned it was granted Federally Qualified Health Center status, a program that supports primary care providers serving uninsured patients in underserved communities. This status comes with a $650,000 two-year grant and a higher rate for Medicaid reimbursement.

That will provide the People’s Community Clinic with the money it needs to help more patients, perhaps as many as 50 percent – or 5,000 — more, clinic Chief Executive Regina Rogoff told members of City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. But what the clinic doesn’t have is enough space to see more patients – there’s no room to expand at its location at 2909 North Interstate 35.

“The grant funding is very advantageous and will allow us to expand and serve more underserved people,” Rogoff told In Fact Daily. “But that money will not cover capital expenditures, only operations. We’re trying to put together funds to build a new facility so we can then see more patients. Right now, we have absolutely no elbowroom whatsoever.”

Rogoff told the committee that the bond funds would be used as part of a $12 million plan to pay for the new clinic on donated land in the Rathgeber Village complex. The remaining $10 million would come from a combination of donations, foundation support and tax credits. The Rathgeber site, originally donated to the Austin Community Foundation, will also house the Austin Children’s Shelter and Big Brothers & Big Sisters.

From that location, People’s Community Clinic can serve four ZIP codes – 78721, 78723, 78724, and 78725 – all of which have substantial low income populations and little or no health care services. The statistics are startling: 77 percent of the 7,211 low-income residents in 78721 were not served by a public health clinic. In 78725, that number was 79 percent, according to clinic records.

“It’s a very stark picture of a very large area that is obviously underserved, with a high population of low-income people, many of whom have no access to health care,” Rogoff said.

To make room for the requested $2 million in bond funds, the committee passed a motion to ask staff at the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department to reconsider their initial requests for bond funds in the November package.

Those projects also include renovations for the Health and Human Services’ facility on the Betty Dunkerley campus on Levander Loop; expansion of the parking lots for the far South Austin and Montopolis Women, Infants and Children (WIC) centers; and repairs to a Salvation Army women’s shelter. All told, the Health and Human Services department sought $4 million to $5 million in bond funds, an amount Council Member Laura Morrison called “a pittance, frankly, in terms of the needs of this community.”

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