By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,683)
The Portland Community Health Center (Portland CHC) was recently awarded a $678,433 federal grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide new and expanded health care to adults, children and families experiencing homelessness in Cumberland County according to Munjoy Hill resident Leslie Brancato, its CEO in a press statement.
The three-year grant will allow Portland CHC to respond to the increasing rate of homelessness among its new patients. In the first year, the health center will expand its hours and operations at its current Park Avenue facility. In the second year of the grant, a new health center location will be added in order to expand capacity even further.
Portland CHC is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) which primarily serves people who have experienced barriers to health care related to homelessness, language, poverty and immigration status. But like all FQHC’s, the health center is open to every member of the community. It is governed by a local Board of Directors, most of who are patients at the health center and its stated mission is to provide high quality, patient-centered health care that is affordable and culturally sensitive.
“We are very excited to be receiving this grant in order to expand the health care services available to people experiencing homelessness in Greater Portland. This funding will allow more homeless people to have access to a family doctor and a primary medical home and that’s good for our entire community. When people are health, kids do better in school, workers are more productive and health costs are lower for all of us,” said Brancato in the press statement.
Portland CHC has experienced a dramatic and steady increase in the number of people, especially families, who are experiencing homelessness and need health care services. The number of homeless patients at Portland CHC increased from 71 in March 2012 to 626 in September 2013. That’s an 800% increase and the trend has continued. Of particular concern, 40 percent of our new homeless patients during this time period were under the age of 21, revealing an alarming increase in the number of homeless families needing health care. The needs of Portland’s growing homeless population are larger than any one organization can address. Our goal is that every person has access to primary health care. With an average of 434 people seeking shelter each night, reaching this goal requires a community effort and the time is right.
This grant will allow us to take a big bite out of the health care needs of Greater Portland’s homeless population, the press statement continues. But just as important is the ongoing community conversation and collaborations that are needed to reduce the number of children and adults experiencing homelessness. We want every member of our community to have a pathway to good health.
“We are looking forward o working with our community partners to assure access care for homeless and create innovative programming that will meet these goals,” said Brancato.
For more information, please visit www.portlandcommunityhealthcenter.org