$20 million going to Arizona community health centers intended to improve health equity in underserved areas

As part of the Biden administration’s announcement last month that nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be distributed to community health centers across the country, US Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema announced Thursday the allocation of $$19,656,854 to 23 facilities in Arizona.

Kelly said in a statement:

“Arizona’s Community Health Centers continue to play a vital role in our response to COVID-19. These funds will help health centers in every corner of our state continue to provide affordable, high-quality care to those who need it most as we continue to recover from this pandemic.”

 

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Among the awarded facilities are El Rio Santa Cruz Neighborhood Health Center in Tucson (receiving $1,749,193), Maricopa County Special Health Care District in Phoenix (receiving $1,461,158), and Chiricahua Community Health Centers in Elfrida (receiving $830,275).

Tara McCollum Plese, chief external affairs officer at the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, spoke with State of Reform about how facilities were selected and how the money might be used, specifically in Maricopa County.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Plese explained, determined where to invest extra ARPA funds by looking at and speaking with different nonprofits in the county. She said they decided to award the funding to these specific community health centers because of their demonstrated work helping vulnerable populations, such as racial minorities, during the pandemic.

“It was really because they saw our health centers were working hard and aggressively going out and making sure that vulnerable populations, especially in low-income neighborhoods where there are a lot of minority groups … were vaccinated, and that they were covered, and that they still had access to health care …”

She said the county used a “health equity lens” to allocate the funding, and recognized community health centers’ work implementing telehealth, conducting health care outreach to help reduce deferred care, disseminating vaccine information, and more was helping advance health equity in the county’s most underserved areas.

“I think that’s a lot of the reason why [Maricopa County] turned to the health centers, is because we’re in those areas of Maricopa County where you find the most vulnerable populations … Those are our patients, those are the people that we’re serving.”

Plese said one example of how the community health centers will use this funding is for additional dental chairs to accommodate more patients as the facilities continue to integrate dental services into their care model. Smaller facilities might use the funding to invest in increasing their capacity to care for their community, such as by remodeling or expanding.

“This capital investment is to ensure that those areas where there are not currently other primary care providers, and especially not community health centers, are going to be able to fill the need in those areas …”