Federal health center funding increased

Posted: Monday, April 29, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The federal government has increased the amount of money it spends on community health centers in Alaska for the second time in a year.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has granted an extra $10 million to Alaska.

The money could build new community health centers and help pay costs at existing centers.

The new money is part of the federal government's Frontier Health Plan, a program aimed at rural states.

Sen. Ted Stevens said the extra $10 million came at his request. He also talked the agency into a $6.5 million increase last fall.

Dr. Betty Duke, the agency's administrator, announced the extra money at the Alaska Rural Health Conference in Anchorage last week after two days of visiting health centers in Alaska, Stevens' office said.

The money ''demonstrates this administration's dedication to ensuring that all Alaskans, including those in the most remote areas of our state, have access to basic health services,'' Stevens said in a news release.

In all, the federal agency will spend $23 million in Alaska this fiscal year. That level of spending is expected ''to continue on an annual basis,'' the Stevens news release said.

Groups must apply for a share of the additional $10 million by June 20.

Community health centers provide primary health care at reduced rates for people with low incomes.

The federal government's Frontier Health Plan supports a dozen health centers and clinics around the state.

Anchorage has two clinics, Fairbanks has one. Six clinics serve communities in the Aleutian Islands. Sitka, Bethel and Talkeetna each have one.

The HRSA funds such centers in areas where it finds a shortage of health professionals.

With the new total, spending in Alaska will have doubled from a few years ago. In fiscal 1999, the federal agency spent about $12.8 million in Alaska.

The new total for Alaska is still a tiny slice of the agency's nationwide budget of $6.2 billion this fiscal year.

Given its small population, though, Alaska has a proportionately larger slice of the agency's budget. With an estimated 634,000 people, Alaska's population is .22 percent of the nation's 284 million. The state will take in .37 percent of the HRSA's spending this year.

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