This article was originally posted on the Yakima Herald website on Aug 11, 2015.

By Molly Rosbach

YAKIMA, Wash. — Two local community health centers were awarded a total of more than $1.5 million this week to develop new clinic sites in the Yakima Valley, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.

Community Health of Central Washington, which operates the Central Washington Family Medicine clinic and residency program, received $1,057,452, while Yakima Neighborhood Health Services received $467,500, though the grants will be ongoing if federal dollars continue to come through.

The money, part of the Affordable Care Act, is meant to expand primary care services to new patients, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a news release. This week is National Health Center week, recognizing the health centers that serve an estimated 23 million people around the country.

Community Health has long been hoping to open a clinic site in the Highland area, CEO Dr. Mike Maples said Tuesday.

“There hasn’t been a medical provider out there for 30 years, ever since Dr. Clark Thompson retired from that practice,” which was in Cowiche, Maples said.

Community Health had originally written the grant in 2014, but when recipients were announced in the first round of funding in May, the clinic wasn’t on the list.

However, when Congress later passed H.R.2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, further appropriations for health centers were included, so HHS was able to direct that money toward more new site applications, Maples said.

“I’m still a little stunned,” he said. “I can’t wait to see the expression on the faces of my board members.”

Neighborhood Health CEO Anita Monoian was also pleased.

“I was absolutely thrilled to see that two Yakima clinics got funded. I was really excited about that,” she said. “It’s a good day.”

Neighborhood Health will use the money for a new site in Granger, where the organization has long had a presence through its homeless outreach program, but where there are currently no community health center clinics.

Currently, many people from the Granger area are seeking care in Neighborhood Health’s Sunnyside and Yakima clinics, as well as other health centers elsewhere in the Valley.

“So it’ll be great for them — for people who have limited resources, driving and using gasoline becomes a burden, and the time away from work … frequently it’s just not doable,” Monoian said. “It’s gonna create wonderful access.”

“Every time we open one of these new sites, and the access it creates, it enriches the Valley,” she said. “Bringing better access to health care enriches everything about our community.”

Neither center will be building a new facility, but will be looking to lease or buy and remodel existing buildings in Highland and Granger.

Both sites will likely have the equivalent of one full-time provider each, potentially rotating through doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Maples said Central Washington Family Medicine has 120 days from receipt of the grants to start providing services at the new location, which means Dec. 9.

“We may not have full operations, but we will definitely have some operations by that date,” he said.

He estimated that roughly 1,200 people will be served by the Highland clinic.

Other grant recipients in Washington state were clinics in Spokane, Seattle, Mattawa and Chewelah. Nationwide, $169 million in ACA dollars was directed to 266 health centers. In the May round of funding, just two clinics, in Okanogan and Port Angeles, received funds.