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Grants may let Dirne expand

by Tom Hasslinger
| December 16, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Dirne Community Health Center has applied for around $900,000 in grants that would increase access to health care services across Kootenai and Shoshone counties, it announced on Wednesday.

The first grant, totaling $650,000, would place satellite facilities in both Post Falls and Shoshone County. Each site would employ three medical providers along with a counselor, dentist and support staff. It's estimated the project would serve about 9,000 new patients each year during 24,000 patient visits.

"We're pretty excited about it," said CEO Mike Baker. "It's fun to see this chance come up. We hope we get it. With the first grant, it's pretty much doubling our size in one shot."

One of the biggest challenges that Dirne faces is its ability to add providers to current facilities, Baker said.

While funding for that project will be extremely competitive, health disparities in both counties exceeded state and national benchmarks. Those numbers should place the application high on the list, Baker said. Overall, the project scored 90 out of 100 on the overall need for the project.

Health disparities identified included high rates of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer screening, infant mortality, late entry into prenatal care, cigarette use during pregnancy, childhood immunizations, death from pneumonia, and adult asthma and suicide, according to a press release from the nonprofit medical provider.

Specific locations for the facilities haven't been nailed down.

The second grant, totaling $257,000, was a non-competitive grant and Baker said he's nearly certain it will be approved.

It would allow Dirne to add medical, dental, and mental health providers to its Coeur d'Alene staff. That would create 12 new jobs for the community and increase access to care for nearly 6,000 people.

Both grant opportunities stem from the health care reform bill, which authorized money for the Community Health Center program across the nation. Its goal is to double the number of patients seen in health centers and create an additional 284,000 jobs in local communities across the nation.

At the local level, the state of Idaho estimates there are nearly 30,000 uninsured people living in Shoshone County and Kootenai County combined.

Data also show that there are about 30,000 people on Medicaid and nearly 25,000 seniors with Medicare in the two counties.

With a total combined population of around 152,000 people, more than 50 percent of the community could be struggling to find a consistent source of primary care, the press release said. Notification on the grants should come by early spring. The applications were turned in Wednesday, the last day for deadline.

"If it goes well they'll be in the new facilities by this time next year," Baker said of the possible Post Falls and Shoshone County expansion.

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