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Health Centers Receive Grants to Provide, Improve Pharmaceutical Services

Donna Young

Several government-funded health centers in August were selected to receive pharmacy-related grants ranging from $86,000 to $250,000 as part of a federal program to expand the provision of primary health care.

Health centers in six states received either a Pharmacy Start-up or a Clinical Pharmacy Demonstration Project grant to start new pharmacies, hire pharmacists, contract for pharmaceutical services, and expand onsite pharmaceutical services.

The pharmacy grants were established to show that the health status of patients is improved by making pharmaceutical services a standard component of health centers, according to the Bureau of Primary Health Care, a program in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The grant program is funded under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act to provide for primary and preventive health care services in medically underserved areas throughout the United States and its territories.

The grants come from the fiscal year 2001 budget for the Consolidated Health Centers programs, which include community health centers, migrant health centers, health care for the homeless, public housing primary care, and Healthy Schools—Healthy Communities programs.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency in HHS, oversees the health center’s programs.

Each health center applicant was required to partner with at least one other health center to receive the grant.

Sarah Lang, chief executive officer (CEO) of the South Columbus Community Health Center of Columbus, Georgia, said her health center has partnered with nearby Columbus Regional Medical Center (CRMC), Stewart Webster Rural Health Center of Richland, Georgia, and Auburn University School of Pharmacy at Auburn, Alabama, to establish pharmaceutical services with a $250,000 demonstration project grant.

Demonstration grants, ranging from $100,000 to $250,000, are awarded to networks of health centers that have established a cooperative relationship with a college of pharmacy to help plan and implement pharmaceutical services.

Lang said CRMC is helping with pharmacist recruitment and acting as an oversight body for the project.

As part of the project, Lang said, Auburn pharmacy students, who are scheduled for experiential rotations at CRMC, will fulfill some of their rotation activities at the health centers.

She said the funds would help demonstrate two things: that a small health center can maintain a pharmacy and that patients with diabetes mellitus, asthma, or hypertension can improve their medication compliance by having pharmacy services available to them.

Health Resource Alliance of Pasco Inc., of Dade City, Florida, is the lead applicant grantee of a $245,230 demonstration project grant. The health center’s grant partners are Tampa Community Health Center and Manatee County Rural Health Services, which has several clinics in west central Florida.

Ron Melancon, Health Resource Alliance’s CEO, said the centers plan to use the funds to help pay for pharmacists’ salaries, consultants’ fees, and equipment.

Professors from Florida A&M University’s College of Pharmacy will act as consultants for the health centers to provide oversight and help the centers develop disease-specific protocols, Melancon said.

The pharmacy school has a satellite program located on the campus of the University of South Florida at Tampa.

Melancon said the grant-funded pharmaceutical services would help the health centers provide patients and physicians with better education and information about effective medication use.

Stuart Hamilton, a physician and CEO of the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center in Columbia, South Carolina, said his health center originally applied for a demonstration project grant to establish a project with the University of South Carolina at Columbia. But HRSA awarded the health center a $100,000 start-up grant instead.

Hamilton said his center has joined with another Columbia health center, Richland Community Health Care Association, to establish a pharmacy at a homeless shelter that is located halfway between the two centers.

"Our ultimate goal is to build a medical arts building in two years for pharmacy, dental, and other medical services," Hamilton said.

Chiricahua Community Health Centers in Elfrida, Arizona, the lead applicant grantee for a $100,000 start-up grant, banded together with Marana Health Center, a rural health clinic located outside of Tucson.

Ginger Ryan, Chiricahua’s CEO, said the two health centers plan to use the funds to contract for pharmaceutical services through El Rio Neighborhood Health Center of Tucson, an independent health center that has a full-service pharmacy and is located about 100 miles away from the government-funded clinics. She said her clinic and Marana plan to use some of the funds to hire a prescription-distribution clerk to help onsite physicians dispense a small supply of pharmaceuticals.

Joe Dawsey, executive director for Coastal Family Health Center Inc. of Biloxi, Mississippi, said his clinics plan to use an $86,000 start-up grant to hire a pharmacist and pay for a pharmacy computer system.

"We know it’s not enough to do all this, but we have some other sources of income that will help subsidize our grant," he said. "The city of Biloxi is giving us some money, and then we will also have earned income from the pharmacy. We have already advertised for a pharmacist, and we expect to hire someone within the next 30 days. We aren’t letting any moss grow under our feet."

Dawsey said the new pharmacy would initially serve 7 of the health center’s 15 satellite sites.

Cornell Scott, CEO of Hill Health Corp. of New Haven, Connecticut, agreed that the pharmacy start-up funds "don’t go too far."

Hill Health received a $100,000 start-up grant.

Bond Community Health Association of Tallahassee, Florida, was also named as an applicant grantee of a $249,720 demonstration project grant.