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Community health centers waiting on federal funds to help vaccinate underserved communities

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:06 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Federal funds could soon be headed to community health centers to help get more people vaccinated who live in underserved communities in South Carolina.

Back in March, several centers statewide announced they were receiving American Rescue Plan funds to assist with COVID-19 response in those communities, which includes four care providers in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee Region:

  • Health Care Partners of South Carolina in Conway will be receiving $2,546,000
  • HopeHealth, Inc. in Florence will receive $8,712,750
  • CareSouth Carolina Inc. in Hartsville will receive $7,752,125
  • Little River Medical Center, Inc. will receive $8,044,875

Staff members at all four locations said they were required to submit a final plan on the federal level, outlining how the money would be used over a two-year period.

Whether it be purchasing mobile units or addressing myths about the vaccine, the organizations said each dollar will help to improve pandemic responses in the communities they serve.

Health Care Partners of South Carolina in Conway said its final plan, detailing how they’ll use nearly $2 million American Rescue Plan dollars, has been approved.

Staff said those dollars will help to expand health care access to clients in Horry, Florence and Marion counties.

”We’ve ordered transport vans,” said Michelle Songer, corporate compliance officer for Health Care Partners. “We’ve begun doing home visits and we’ve given several vaccinations through home visits. And then we have some patient care coordinators that we’ve used to help facilitate those vaccinations and make sure the patients have a way to get here for the vaccinations or arrange transportation to get here for the vaccinations.”

Over at Little River Medical Center, the CEO said they’re waiting for their final $8 million response plan to be approved.

Part of the plan includes purchasing a small mobile medical unit to deliver services to residents in underserved communities. In the meantime, staff said they’re getting bids and making necessary preparations so when the time comes, they can roll with their next level of COVID-response.

“We also hired a mobile team, which includes LPN, RN, CMA, and we’re looking at a nurse practitioner that we can deploy in the community, that could outreach patients not only needing COVID testing in the community or treatment or vaccine but also if we got patients that couldn’t get in, we can go to the home and deliver those services that’s needed,” said Pamela Davis, CEO for LRMC.

Davis said as of Thursday, LRMC has provided over 20,000 vaccinations.

CareSouth Carolina is eligible to receive close to $8 million from the American Rescue Plan. The CEO said their plans are submitted and they’re waiting for final approval.

Like the other centers, staff said their company has dedicated their time to getting more shots into arms. The grant funds will allow them to reach those who may not be receiving the most accurate information about the vaccine.

“We’ve been doing a massive campaign,” said CareSouth CEO Ann Lewis. “We call it ‘sleeves up,’ around getting out information about COVID, about vaccinations, about testing. This really is giving us the ability to do things that otherwise we would’ve had too tight of a budget. Like a billboard and using a lot more digital tools. It’s giving us a lot otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish.”

Lewis said so far, their center has vaccinated around 30,000 people.

HopeHealth in Florence is eligible to receive over $8 million in grant funds. A representative for HopeHealth said the company is waiting for federal confirmation about their funding plans.

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