ARLINGTON >> Six health centers in Vermont have been awarded $5,477,210 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to renovate facilities, expand operations, and serve more patients.
Battenkill Valley Health Center in Arlington received $1,000,000, which will be utilized to purchase and renovate the existing building, as well as the neighboring 118-year-old facility that shares a parking lot and sidewalk.
The construction for the future village clinical campus will begin in September through ReArch Company from South Burlington. The plan is to employ local contractors, according to Grace Gilbert-Davis, CEO of the Battenkill Valley Health Center. The bidding process will start this summer and construction is expected to last nine months.
The expansion will make current operations more efficient, double examination rooms and include a dental clinic with four chairs, run by Dr. Stephen Phillips, chief dental officer.
"Dr. Phillips is an absolutely amazing dentist who has been working with us voluntarily for the last year in anticipation of getting the clinic up and running," Gilbert-Davis said.
From 2003 to 2013, Bennington County saw a 23.5 percent decrease in full-time equivalent dentists, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
This federal funding is a result of the Health Center Trust Fund created by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., under the Affordable Care Act. Sanders is a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security.
"It was an extensive application process that we submitted last summer and we didn't get funding during the first round. Vermont was one of five states that didn't get funding," Gilbert-Davis said. "For the second round we were then eligible, and heard yesterday that we got what we applied for."
The community health center. located on 9 Church St. in Arlington, is a federally-qualified nonprofit. It offers a sliding-fee scale for uninsured residents or those with high-deductible insurance plans. Medicare and Medicaid is accepted. It also is a recipient of the Vermont Blueprint for Health program, which provides free access to a "dietitian, nurse case manager and behavior health specialist," according to its site.
The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010 in an attempt to give Americans access to better, low-cost health care. Four out of 10 people in Bennington County are underinsured, the Vermont Department of Health reports.
"There's a threshold. Each center is told you're able to apply up to this amount, and you don't always get that amount," Gilbert-Davis said. "We're very proud and humbled that we were recognized in this way."
Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region received $752,502; Copley Professional Services Group, Morrisville, $1,000,000; Little Rivers Health Care in Bradford, $999,928; Richford Health Center, $724,780; and Springfield Medical Care Systems, $1,000,000.
For more information on the award, visit http://hhs.gov.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.