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Published in Nonprofits
Catherine’s Health Center expansion to fill gap for underserved patients COURTESY PHOTO

Catherine’s Health Center expansion to fill gap for underserved patients

BY Tuesday, October 13, 2020 12:45pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Catherine’s Health Center, a nonprofit health care provider for underserved patients in Kent County, plans to open two or three new clinics this fall after securing designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center.

The designation enabled Catherine’s Health Center to receive $1.7 million in annual funding and expand with new clinics that would fill a market gap created in late 2019 when Mercy Health lost federal funding and had to close clinics.

“We are thrilled about the opportunity to expand critical health services for the underserved,” Catherine’s Health Center CEO Karen Kaashoek said in a statement. “The need for access to care is growing, and we’re honored to be part of the solution.”

To receive funding under the federal designation, Catherine’s Health Center has to open the new locations by mid- to late November. The expansion will allow the organization to significantly grow the number of patients it serves annually from 1,900 to 22,000 by the end of 2022.

Catherine’s Health Center will serve underserved patients in Grand Rapids’ downtown, Madison Square, Clyde Park Area and Roosevelt Park neighborhoods, as well as Sparta.

Based in the basement of St. Alphonsus Parish north of downtown, Catherine’s Health Center is in the process of hiring additional physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and support staff, said Development Director Jess Eglinton.

Eglinton expects the staff to grow from 26 staff positions to 60, “if not more,” she said.

The $1.7 million federal grant will pay a good portion of the costs for additional staff, but not all. The federal grant also will not cover capital costs for equipment at the new clinics, one of which will offer dental care, Eglinton said.

The center will need to raise additional funding to cover capital and other costs that do not fall under the federal grant, particularly for the transition period as the new locations open and ramp up, Eglinton said.

“As we get these sites on board, as we bring our new providers and staff on board, we’re going to have a bit of a lag period as we’re able to get these sites to capacity, so we’re actively looking for community support during the period,” she said.

How much the health center needs remains unclear as planning and site selection continues. Once the new sites are secured, Catherine’s Health Center will have a better understanding of the capital needs, Eglinton said.

Earning the Federally Qualified Health Center designation through a competitive application process “means that we’re able to better meet our mission” and fill the void created when Mercy Health closed its clinics nearly a year ago, Eglinton said.

“Our mission has always been to provide affordable, compassionate health care for the underserved and there’s a significant need in the community right now and it’s growing,” she said. “With the added complication of COVID-19, folks who traditionally have a lack of access to care, it’s even more exacerbated right now. So, for us it means being able to step up and be part of the solution to the growing need with our community, and that’s what we’re here for and what we do.”

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