Federal Grant Keeps Medical Clinic Doors Open

Post a Comment » Written on April 24th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

DETROIT, MI (April 24, 2008) – Last summer, Covenant Community Care (CCC) was faced with the very real possibility of closing its doors.

Today, invigorated by a new federal grant of $2.3 million, the nonprofit health services clinic started by area Evangelical Covenant churches is expanding its services to thousands of uninsured clients who live well below the poverty line.

“We were in dire financial straights last summer,” says Tom Leger, former board president. Low Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rates were crippling the center’s ability to operate despite generous donations – including that from Beaumont Hospital – and the work of hundreds of volunteers.

Had the clinic closed, it would have been the 21st in Detroit to shut its doors since 1998, according to figures supplied by Leger in a report to the CCC board. Closing the clinic would mean more than 1,000 people would lose access to primary health care.

Then in September, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services designated the clinic a Federally Qualified Health Center (FHQC), making it eligible to receive the grant money. It came almost five years to the day from when the clinic opened.

The clinic opened in 2003 after Dr. Kathy Kleinert, a member of Faith Covenant Church in Farmington Hills, broached the idea to Bob Hoey, pastor of Messiah Covenant Church in southwest Detroit. Kleinert already had been seeing some of the uninsured patients in her private practice. Evangelical Covenant Church of Dearborn joined in starting the center as well. Trinity Church of Livonia, a non-Covenant congregation that has helped plant Covenant churches in the area, also helped start and support the clinic.

“This is the Lord’s doing – it’s bigger than anything we imagined,” says Leger. He was amazed that the center received the full FHQC designation. “Almost no one gets that status without going through an intermediate step.”

The designation was given because of the clinic’s partnership with Southwest Solutions (SWS), a provider of mental health and housing services. SWS is not a faith-based organization.

Southwest sought the partnership several years ago when it noticed that some of its clients were being treated at the clinic. The grant enabled CCC to open its second primary care site at an SWS location.

The FQHC designation increases Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rates to roughly $150 per visit as opposed to the $35 previously received by CCC, provides coverage for physician liability that will save roughly $5,000 per month, and awards $650,000 per year of operating money over three years. The grant can be renewed in five-year increments and generally is renewed as long as recipients fulfill their mission, Leger says.

Leger says CCC served 2,500 people in 2007 and expects that number to increase by several thousand in 2008. That is because the clinic has been able to increase the hours of care from 20 hours a week at one site to 60 hours per week at the two sites.

“We are filling a need that is very real,” Leger emphasizes.

The FHQC may be just the beginning of better days to come for the clinic. “It’s amazing,” Leger says. “We’re being introduced to more possibilities each week.”

Editor’s note: this is the second in a series – the final installment will appear Friday. To read the first article, please see:
•    Business Departs City, Yet Covenant Presence Grows

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