The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on Aug. 11, selected Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).
The FQHC designation, the highest that can be awarded to a U.S. health center, means HBHC is qualified to receive both grants under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act as well as enhanced reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid.
"It's really good news for us," said HBHC President and CEO David Munar. Besides the prestige of the designation, Munar noted, HBHC will now be able to compete for a number of grants that they had previously been shut out of.
"There are grants that, throughout our entire history, we have never been able to compete for," he explained, citing as examples some state programs designated for capital expansion or expanding mental health services. "So the LGBT community has never been able to benefit from these opportunities before. We'll be able to try for those now."
HBHC will receive an annual operating grant of approximately $650,000 and other benefits designed to increase access to primary care, behavioral health and ancillary services to low-income community members. Munar said HBHC is looking to bring in five new medical providers in the first 12 months, adding that the organization was projecting about 1,900 new patients in the first six or seven months. "This will have a cumulative effect and grow over time. It's not hyperbole to say that this will allow us to serve tens of thousands of patients."
FQHCs must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services and have both an ongoing quality assurance program and a governing board of directors, according to HHS. HBHC has been a FQHC "Look-Alike" since 2001, meaning that it met eligibility requirements for under Section 330, but did not qualify for the associated grant-funding.
"Symbolically, it's important for this organization, which has had its ups and downs, to receive this," Munar noted. "This has been something Howard Brown has been competing for for years."