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Providing a Helping Hand

Florida’s free and charitable clinics receive $4.5 million in state funding


For the first time in Florida’s history, state lawmakers have allocated $4.5 million to free and charitable clinics across the state that provide primary and specialty care services to uninsured and low-income, underserved residents.


The grants, administered by the Florida Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (FAFCC) by contract with the Florida Department of Health, will allow 69 free and charitable clinics and networks to fund a variety of needs -- the acquisition of medical and dental equipment, electronic health records systems, expansion of volunteer recruitment and retention, and strategic planning for income diversification.


“Free and charitable clinics provide a much needed safety net for uninsured residents who otherwise might not be able to afford expensive medical and dental treatment and who are ineligible for subsidized coverage through the health insurance marketplace,” said Mark Cruise, a 20-year industry veteran who joined the St. Petersburg-based FAFCC as executive director last July. “Our new grant program makes it possible for these organizations to build capacity (and) reach even more people who need services.”


One hundred percent of the grant money passes through the organization to FAFCC member clinics and networks. We use none of it for administration.


The five largest grant recipients statewide are Grace Medical Home in Orlando ($177,037), Florida International University Mobile Health Center in Miami ($158,040), Shepherd’s Hope in Orlando ($157,000), Caridad Center in Boynton Beach ($150,000), and Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine in Lakeland ($145,930).


The Tampa metro area’s three largest free and charitable clinics garnered a total of $286,949 in grants. The St. Petersburg Free Clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida’s oldest free clinic established in 1970, received $98,349; Clearwater Free Clinic in Clearwater received $98,200; and the Judeo Christian Health Clinic in Tampa received $90,400.


“The grants provide funds for organizational capacity building types of initiatives,” said Cruise. “We’re very excited about the impact they’re making in enabling clinics to build a strong foundation for the long term.”


Senate President Andy Gardner, a Republican from Orlando, championed the FAFCC appropriation, said Cruise. “President Gardner has been a staunch supporter of the free and charitable clinics,” he said. “We’re very grateful for his support and that of so many other legislators – Republicans and Democrats alike in both chambers – who came together and recognized the need to support our sector in this challenging healthcare environment. It’s the kind of partnership between the state and our sector that makes sense fiscally and for the health of our vulnerable neighbors in need. We’re hopeful the appropriation continues next year. We’re working hard to inform legislators about how the money is being used this year, the difference it’s making, and why it should be continued.”


Concerning the controversy over whether to expand healthcare coverage for Floridians, Cruise firmly believes all citizens should have access to coverage and care.


“The best way to achieve that goal is through a broad, bipartisan solution that everyone can salute and get behind,” he said. “For our part, we’ll continue to work very hard to care for the people left behind by the Affordable Care Act. In Florida, that’s a lot of people! We’re not under any illusion that the ACA or the expansion of Medicaid will result in everyone having coverage, especially in Florida.”


Cruise has been in constant contact with state association colleagues across the country concerning trends in the free and charitable clinic sector.


“Some folks outside our industry have concluded that free and charitable clinics are closing their doors in rapid numbers due to the ACA,” he said. “That simply isn’t true. When I’ve asked about closures, none of my colleagues has noticed a trend in that direction. The few clinics across the country that have closed have simply garnered a lot of attention. (None in Florida have closed.) In contrast, most clinics report an increase in patient volume. The demand for free and charitable clinics isn’t going away. In fact, we have six new clinics across the state that are planning to open this year. That tells you a little bit about the need.”



 
 
 
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