By CELESTE BOTT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Twenty-two community health centers are receiving federal grants to improve quality of care, especially for reproductive cancer screenings for women.
The Michigan centers are among 810 nationwide to receive grants funded by the Affordable Care Act.
Facilities receiving $55,000 grants include Cherry Street Services in Grand Rapids; the Ingham County Health Department in Lansing; Center for Family Health in Jackson; Upper Peninsula Association of Rural Health Services Inc. in Marquette; and Detroit Community Health Connection.
Each recipient is part of the Federally Qualified Health Center Program and is eligible to receive such funding to supplement health care outreach initiatives.
“Community health centers in Michigan are committed to providing high quality health care services to our residents,” said James Haveman, the director of the Department of Community Health. “This is yet another crucial funding opportunity to help improve the health and wellness of our state.”
Angela Minicuci, the department’s public information officer, said the grants will also allow community health centers to become patient-centered medical homes.
The patient-centered medical home is designed to improve quality of care by empowering patients to be active participants in their health care, she added.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration intends for the grant money to be put towards women’s health initiatives, particularly to support the effort to increase the percentage of women screened for reproductive cancers.
According to the Michigan Cancer Consortium, women should begin getting screenings for these cervical cancers as early as age 21 if they are sexually active. But for many women, especially those at or below the poverty level, such testing is a low priority, it says.
Women less likely to receive cervical cancer screening include those with low incomes, less than a high school education and those between the ages of 18 and 29 or over the age of 70, according to data from the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Mike Reagan, chief of external relations for Cherry Street Services, said that grants like these are opportunities to expand health care access for those in need.
“There are so many people out there that never get screened for even the most prevalent forms of cancer,” Reagan said. “This grant will be used to make those screenings accessible, especially for populations without access to health care, including the homeless, people on Medicaid and ethnic minorities.”
Donna Jaksic, executive director for the Upper Peninsula Association of Rural Health Services, said that there is a responsibility not just to reach out to women but to make sure they continue to keep their health a priority.
“Part of what we’re doing with the money is trying to develop a better system to record and track patients,” Jaksic said. “We want to improve our database and have better knowledge of how many women come in for these screenings as well as how many follow through with the results.”
Jaksic also said the grant will allow for an expansion of staff.
“This funding allows us to bring on women’s health coordinators so we can really make this a focus of the center,” she said.
Jaksic said she hopes her center, as well as the other recipients, can increase what she called a “surprisingly low” percentage of women who are screened for reproductive cancers.
“Right now we’re at about 54 percent,” she said. “It’s a lot lower than people think. You’d think it would be higher, at least in the seventies or eighties. We’d like to get up to about 63 percent within a year.”
By CELESTE BOTT