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Christiansburg Clinic receives federal grant

By WILLIAM PAINE

wllliam.paine@southwesttimes.com

Thursday, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia announced $1,914,251 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the Free Clinic of the New River Valley in Christiansburg. The Free Clinic of the New River Valley is a nonprofit organization committed to providing quality health care and dental services to people who cannot afford health care.

A joint statement released by both senators stated that, “We’re pleased to announce federal funding to ensure the Free Clinic of the New River Valley can continue to offer valuable care to the community. The clinic helps ensure that uninsured and low-income patients can access the medical, dental, and preventative health services they need.”

This funding was awarded through HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration Health Center Cluster Program. According to Ashley Slagel-Perry, a social worker on staff, the clinic has received this HHS grant since 2014, when the Free Clinic of the New River Valley became a federally qualified community health center. When the free clinic started receiving these federal funds, the clinic started doing business as the Community Health Center of the New River Valley.

“Much of that money goes to discount fee programs,” said Slage-Perry. “We have a sliding scale and we see patients no matter what kind of insurance. You can have private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, underinsured or no insurance, it doesn’t matter to us.”

She estimates that half of the patients who come to the Community Health Center of the New River Valley have some type of insurance, except for the dental patients, the majority of whom are uninsured.

According to Slagel-Perry, before becoming eligible to receive this grant, the Free Clinic of the New River Valley operated with no paid providers, relying instead on medical students and volunteers to staff the clinic. Today there are four clinical social workers, two gynecologists, three dentists and three primary care doctors on staff.

“There’s no wrong door,” Slagel-Perry explained. “We have medical, behavior and dental health under one roof you can’t go wrong. So if you come in here to get your teeth cleaned but you realize your blood pressure is a little high, we’re going to connect you to the medical department. If you come to our primary care doctor and say I have a parent who just died and I’m grieving and I need help, they’re going to bring in one of our social workers to talk to you and we’re going to get you connected with a therapist. We want to treat the whole person from the head to the toe. It doesn’t really matter which department you come to. We work together in a very synchronized kind of way and that makes us really unique among clinics.”

More than 27 million people in the U.S. rely on HRSA-funded health centers for affordable primary health care.

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