Central Peninsula Health Centers

Work of Heart

Posted: Monday, March 27, 2006

Work of Heart is a column devoted to spotlighting certain nonprofit organizations, the heart of area communities.

It was 1991 when the Kenai Peninsula Borough established the Kenai Peninsula Borough Health Care Advisory Council to investigate ways of increasing residents’ access to health insurance. The advisory council proposal to establish a borough health insurance plan under the umbrella of a public nonprofit corporation and open to all residents was defeated at the polls in 1993. However, much had been learned about the gaps in the area health care system — an estimated 50 percent of the area population was underinsured and more than 20 percent had no insurance. In addition, health status reports showed high rates of chronic illness in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Something had to be done.

Healthy Communities/Healthy People was the central peninsula group that evolved from the advisory council and began addressing the gaps.

In 1998, Bridges Community Resource Network became Healthy Communities/Healthy Peoples fiscal agent. Among the projects the partners engaged in was collaboration with the state of Alaska and area agencies to assess and educate the community about oral health needs of low-income children.

In 2001, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Senator Ted Stevens office, and the U.S. Bureau of Primary Health Care approached Healthy Communities/Healthy Peoples and Bridges about funding to establish a community health center. The grant was awarded and Central Peninsula Health Centers (CPHC) was established. Cottonwood Health Center opened in 2002 and Aspen Dental Center opened in 2003.

In 2004, to support the Cottonwood medical providers in addressing the behavioral health needs of their patients, limited behavioral health services were added.

The centers aim to serve the under- and uninsured population of the central peninsula, with attention given to prevention and chronic illness management. However, all people are eligible to access care at CPHC clinics within the scope of the services offered. Fees at the clinics are paid on a sliding discount basis according to income.

Cottonwood services include primary medical care and related support assistance.In addition, Public Health conducts a weekly immunization clinic in the facility, and there also is a weekly Women Infants and Children (WIC) counseling clinic. At the Aspen Dental Center the scope of services is currently extended to youth, adults in pain and pregnant women.

Medicaid, Denali KidCare, Medicare and most insurance are accepted. Basic operation funding is approximately two-thirds patient payments (self-pay, insurance, government payments) and one-third U.S. Bureau of Primary Health Care funding, with the amount of the federal grant as a percent of the total decreasing. In 2005 CPHC served 6,375 people.

The executive director of CPHC is Stan Steadman, who reports to a nine-member board of directors. Ellen Adlam is the board chair. Under federal law, 51 percent of the board members must be consumers of CPHC services. The board of directors meets at 6 p.m. the third Monday of the month.

The center’s annual meeting will celebrate four years since Cottonwood was opened. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Soldotna Sports Center. It is open to the public. Refreshments, music, door prizes and table displays are some of the planned activities. The centers story will be told at 6:30 p.m. and at 7:15 p.m. there will be a presentation highlighting the new Peninsula Community Health Center facility to be built in Soldotna in partnership with Central Peninsula Counseling Services.

The CPHC administration office and dental center are at 395 Main Street Loop in Kenai. The health center is at 170 E. Corral St. in Soldotna. For more information, call 335-2022 or e-mail ssteadman@cphc-medical.org.

This column is sponsored by Bridges Community Network and is written by Linda Tannehill, Bridges board member and Cooperative Extension home economist.

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