“This is great news,” said Sablan. “So many people have worked for so long to have the Kagman Community Health Center approved for federal funding. And now that work has paid off.”
Community health center grants are competitive and the Kagman application has never scored enough points to get funded. But scores have gotten better, especially after Sablan met with HHS officials in 2009 to support an $80,000 planning grant to assist Kagman and the CNMI Department of Public Health in putting together the complex application.
“Last year’s application actually scored high enough to win a grant,” Sablan explained. “But overall funding was cut, so even with a high score Kagman did not get any money.”
Additional funding became available earlier this year, however. So Sablan immediately asked Associate Administrator James Macrae of the Health Resources and Services Administration at HHS to allow the high-scoring Kagman application to be reconsidered without the need for a sixth new application.
HHS agreed and gave Kagman the $608,333 grant yesterday.
Now that Kagman has finally been awarded what is called a “New Access Point” grant, funding should continue year after year. The health center will not have to compete for funds, but only submit an annual budget renewal application. As long as the center keeps up with program requirements and meets the goals set out in the original application funding should remain available.
The Kagman Health Center will focus on prenatal, basic dental, and other primary and preventive care. Services can be expanded, however, with supplemental grants to add to the base funding amount Kagman has now been awarded.
According to the project plan submitted to Health and Human Services, the Center is envisioned to be 4,200 square feet with five exam rooms. Staffing is projected to eventually include three midlevel providers, four nurses, one case manager/outreach worker, one laboratory technician, a medical director, a chief financial officer, and an executive director.
“Clearly [yesterday’s] grant award, though a long time in arriving, is just the beginning of many more years of building and development,” Sablan said. “But even having access to the most basic care in Kagman will be so welcome.
“Many Kagman residents do not own a car or, if they do, can barely afford gas. There is no public transportation. And the Commonwealth Health Center is on the other side of Saipan, an expensive taxi ride away. Now health care will be available in the heart of Kagman.”
Lack of access to health care is believed to be a significant reason why the Kagman area has high rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and childhood asthma. Improved access is expected to have a positive effect on these problems and on low birth weights, low rates of immunization, and high rates of teen pregnancy.
Another benefit of the New Access Point grant and designation as a federally qualified health center is an enhanced reimbursement rate for Medicare, eligibility to purchase drugs at reduced prices, and access to primary health care professionals working under the auspices of the National Health Service Corps.
The Kagman facility is also expected to relieve pressure on the Commonwealth Health Center.