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Stimulus to help medical service

Sun Advocate reporter

Of the 29 federal stimulus grants that have been approved in Carbon County, two represent an effort to expand Carbon Medical Services (CMS) in East Carbon and Helper.

Amounting to $357,030 and $138,234, the grants should last for the next two years and will affect not only Carbon, but also northern parts of Emery County.

The overall intent of the money, "is to help clinics that serve uninsured and low income areas, or those who have been most impacted by the recession," said Yvonne Jensen, executive director of the Carbon program.

One grant, in the amount of $138,234, is being used in East Carbon to add 1.5 positions and to help meet the area's demand for health services. In Helper, the other grant for $357,030 will be used to expand and improve the existing building. However, while the money for both grants has been made available, the projects are still in their early stages.

"What this grant ($138,234) was used for, was to create jobs, particularly with providers, or (to) save jobs that we might have otherwise laid off," said Jensen.

CMS has hired a part-time nurse practitioner, as well as a medical assistant in East Carbon. Plans are in place to eventually hire another full time provider in Helper, according to Jensen. With the new and planned positions, the center hopes it can provide access to its services for more people. At the facility in Helper, only about half the building is being used to provide the center's services. With the capital improvement stimulus, Jensen plans to complete an enlargement and renovation.

"Right now, we're getting the blueprints ready, but it's a two year grant (2009 through 2011), so I can draw from it any time I want. It's targeted towards a renovation," she said.

The money for the two grants was part of a national stimulus program involving thousands of other similar facilities. Grants from the national program amounted to a total of about $340 million. Although CMS received the two stimulus grants, they also received an increase in their operating budget, which amounted to about $3.3 million, or a $23,000 increase.

"We got an increase because, every year, we do a report. Last year, we basically said how we use our money and it's not just for (the) uninsured, but (also) for Medicare and Medicaid. We are also a big employer in East Carbon, because, between the two health centers, we employ 20 people," said Jensen.

CMS has also received around $500,000 in federal money from a health and human resources grant, as well as a federally-earmarked yearly $29,000 ($28,000 for 2008) to update their computer systems.

"We're in the final phase of getting (the center) up on a network for electronic health records that has received federal money," she said, adding that the money provided is being used for hardware and software as well as other logistics to get the center on the network.

With this money, the center's intent in Carbon County is to provide primary and preventive services. According to Jensen, the center is intended for persons facing economic, geographical, or cultural barriers to medical service. CMS was started in 1952 at the Dragerton schoolhouse. While the center has neared closure over the years, its work continues.

"Would Carbon Medical exist without federal funding? No," said Jensen, who added that CMS almost closed because of insurance issues, but has been able to continue under non- profit status.

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