Lincoln County approved for federal grant for community health center

The US Department of Health and Human Services has approved Lincoln County for a $1.8 million grant to start a new community health center in Star City.

The grant will be paid at $600,000 a year for three years, said Jane Newton, co-chair of Lincoln County’s Health Planning Committee, which has been meeting since April 2007 in an effort to start a CHC in Lincoln County.

“This was a true community effort,” Newton said. “As long as the program continues, then we will have the opportunity of being funded. From what I understand, they tend to fund the programs that are successfully continuing to run. We will have a better chance the next time.”

Community health centers deliver primary, preventive healthcare and social services and are located in “medically underserved and health professional shortage areas.”They are owned and governed by the communities that they serve through volunteer boards, which are comprised of community leaders and users of the CHC. They operate as independent, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporations.

The board of directors for Mainline Health Systems Inc. of Portland, Ark.,voted in April 2009 to sponsor a community health center in Star City as a “satellite” of Mainline. Mainline has health centers in Dermott, Eudora and Portland.

G. Allan Nichols, the executive director of Mainline, received the news Friday that Lincoln County was the first on the list of approvals for the coveted grants.

The clinic, possibly to be known as the Southeast Arkansas Regional Community Health Center, will be inside Dr. Kenneth Heiles’ former clinic at 203 S. Jefferson Street.

Committee co-chair Debbie Riley said the health center must be up and running 120 days after the money is received. But Riley said he isn’t concerned.

“We’re so far ahead of everybody else (because) we already have a building, we already have a doctor and a dentist,” Riley said Monday.

Riley said Nichols has been buying and stockpiling equipment at the Dermott facility.

“We will be renovating the building,” Riley said. “We’re going to start one side, get it renovated, and then go to the other.”

Riley said the money will be used to help renovate the clinic and pay salaries until the center is self-sustaining.

“I am thrilled that we have been funded because we have worked so long and so hard,” Riley said.

“And this will benefit the community greatly.”