MAYVILLE - News of a federal grant to fund the Chautauqua Health Center spread fast.
Reactions have been equally swift.
"Personally I'm thrilled this came to pass. It's a great benefit to the community," said Ann Abdella, executive director for the Chautauqua Health Network.
"It's been sorely needed," added Christine Schuyler, county health commissioner.
County Executive Greg Edwards, too, expressed optimism for the health center, noting similar systems across the state - which serves an estimated 1.4 million residents through 470 sites.
"This is a model that has been proven to work," Edwards said to The Post-Journal. "We have the need for just that type of medical care."
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, in June announced that a $650,000 federal Health and Human Services Department grant was secured to start a county health center. With a scheduled opening date in October, the center will serve an estimated 5,000 underserved residents with medical needs.
"This is a huge win for Chautauqua County residents that will now have a federally qualified health center for the very first time," Schumer said. "Residents of Chautauqua County have long needed this center, and I applaud the Department of Health and Human Services for stepping up to the plate and providing funding to create it."
Labeled as a "one-stop shop" for medical access to those with or without insurance, the health center - which had been in discussions and planning for five years - will provide medical and behavior services to thousands in the county. The center will be located in the Graf Building on Central Avenue in Dunkirk.
"This federally designated health center just brings a whole opportunity to the county," Schuyler said when asked of the impacts to the county's health landscape. "It's been a long process."
Schuyler said with a health care provider shortage in the county, the center will provide a variety of services in one location. She added that emergency room visits should decrease - saving room, money and resources for area hospitals.
"In the end it helps lower health care costs," she said. "It's a wrap-around service. We make sure referrals are made. ... We hook people up with the services they qualify for."
Chautauqua County in 2007 was recognized as one of the poorest counties in the country without a federally qualified health center. Statistics also showed that the county suffers from diabetes, asthma and heart disease at rates higher than the national average.
The federal grant, which will be recurring to the center and supplemented through insurance reimbursements, was secured by the Chautauqua Health Network and the Community Health Center Association of New York. A community health planning grant was received to investigate ways to expand health care coverage and access within the county.
From there, a planning committee applied and received the Health and Human Services grant to create Chautauqua Center Inc.
"It gives us a one-stop corridor," Edwads said. "I've been an advocate for this designation, and it allows people to access medical care that is not an emergency."
Michael Pease, current program manager at the Chautauqua Health Network, is the health center's interim executive director.
"We want to thank Sen. Schumer for his support and for helping to secure this federal funding," Pease said. "The Chautauqua Center will be a tremendous asset to the local community and we look forward to opening our doors this fall."
Added Abdella, "This center puts us near the top of the list to recruit national health scholars. It comes along with some other benefits; it makes us an appealing place to work at the clinics."