By WANDA REESE
Capital News Service
LANSING — While emergency fund-raising efforts to restore funding to the Otto Community Health Center netted the program more than $115,000. Ingham County health officials say the windfall is “just a Band-Aid solution.”
The center is located in the Otto Middle School, 500 E. Thomas St., in Lansing. It provides health care services for underprivileged students and low-income residents.
Debbie Brinson, health coordinator for the Ingham County Health Department, and a key player in the effort to raise funds quickly to keep the health center open, said she is excited to see the community come together so quickly in support of the county’s efforts to provide health care for underprivileged kids.
But said she was equally disheartened to hear Gov. John Engler, in his final state of the State Address, pledge to support a plan to expand health care coverage services for families, while cutting those very programs from the state budget. Brinson said the funding raised would keep the center operating only until this September.
State Rep. Paul DeWeese, whom Brinson praised for “doing a great job of mobilizing and creating an energy within the community to work together to quickly resolve a problem,” donated $15,000 from his recent legislative pay raise to the health center after state budget reductions were announced last month.
DeWeese later helped coordinate a campaign that raised additional funding from other community resources.
In addition to DeWeese’s contribution, $4,000 was donated by the Junior League of Lansing; $10,000 from the Michigan Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association; $500 from the Associated General Contractors; and $25,000 from an anonymous donor. But despite efforts described by Brinson as extraordinary, they still won’t be enough to keep the program operating beyond September.
Robin Turner, co-chair of the center’s advisory board, said the county is “still hoping for some work to be done on a supplemental bill from the state,” but they are also exploring other possible resources, such as from Washington, D.C.
Turner said despite the shortfall and dismal outlook, she’s hopeful the program will be saved.
“There may be something from the federal government by going through the Bureau of Primary Health Care, through a potential grant.”
Brinson said it’s too early to determine the outcome of the potential for a supplemental bill.
She also called the idea of the federal match, while a strong possibility, not an immediate option, and would still leave a deficit next year, if community level funding was not maintained.
Brinson said in the meantime, other funding through the federal government, additional community support, and possibly restructuring services will also be explored.
According to Brinson, $161,000 is needed to keep the program afloat, with another $85,000 needed to continue its companion Peer Education program, which also lost funding.
The health center is one in a statewide system of community health centers serving 24,000 children, mainly students and low-income adults. The program offers primary care health services, preventative screenings, provides treatment of minor infections and gives special attention to children suffering from severe asthma.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By WANDA REESE