By TIM THORNBERRY
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The ability to bring quality health care to rural areas is vital. In 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; as part of it, hospitals must conduct community health needs assessments in order to keep their nonprofit tax status.
As a way to assist these local hospitals and their local health care partners initiate these plans derived from the assessment process, grants have been made available. The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), part of the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agricul-ture, Food and En-vironment and the Kentucky Office of Rural Health, and the Kentucky Hos-pital Assoc. will be funding 3-4 of these planning grants.
CEDIK has worked with several rural hospitals in the state and has found partnerships all wanting to do good things for those in need of their services. “After working with 30 hospitals around the state, we saw wonderful new partnerships and a lot of synergy moving forward, with the unified vision of improving health outcomes in their community,” said Alison Davis, CEDIK director.
“We think this funding opportunity will continue that momentum and enable both new and old coalitions to position themselves for future funding opportunities.”
According to information from UK, proposals for these grants will be accepted from rural health coalitions that include a rural hospital of fewer than 50 staffed beds. In addition to the hospital, coalitions must include at least two other partners, such as the public health department, medical or dental care providers, the school system, public safety agencies, local government, nonprofit organizations or the business sector.
Marisa Aull, an extension associate for CEDIK and coordinator of the Community Health Needs Assessment Program for rural Kentucky hospitals, said these grants provide an opportunity for local coalitions to work with their rural hospitals in various project-based initiatives.
“We’re really looking at supporting a project or possibly helping continue a project that is ongoing,” she said. “Some of the communities that we have been working with are finding people aren’t aware of some of their services, so they’re looking at marketing campaigns and letting people know what is already available in their communities.”
Aull said often people bypass their local hospitals for the nearest larger city facility, thinking some services such as mammograms aren’t offered at home. In reality many of these smaller hospitals do indeed provide these and other services.
“We did have an opportunity to hear from many people who said their rural hospital was really a life-saving place; it stabilized life until they were able to get to another place,” she said. “People sometimes look at this small hospital that doesn’t have all the amenities of a large hospital.
“But what we don’t look at is what would happen if we didn’t have that (facility) – how many lives are really saved – and we don’t typically look at that. What we find is that when people are actually inpatients in many of these hospitals, they have great experiences and are amazed at the services and care.”
In addition to marketing campaigns, Aull said one coalition, for instance, will be applying for assistance with a mobile dental unit that will go into schools in an effort to teach people that oral health practices affect more than just their teeth. Many of the grant proposals are also geared toward education programs, especially in light of misunderstandings that exist with the introduction of the national health care law.
Aull pointed out while strengthening local health care is about getting people healthier, it also has an economic impact, as many companies looking to move into an area or expand, consider the kind of health care available.
“When you bring new people to the community or offer people in the community expanding jobs, it’s a win-win situation for everyone, but (companies) do look for opportunities for health care and having a hospital, whether it is a small or larger facility,” she said. “Having access to health care is always on the top of their business wish list. So we want to continue to strengthen these hospitals that are already in these rural communities and make sure there is access for people.”
Aull added it is the hope of CEDIK that the rural community grants will truly provide an opportunity for some smaller hospitals to work with their communities and make health care stronger. This will mark the first time CEDIK has participated in the grant program. In the future, if funding is available, 1-3 grants will likely be supported through the program. This year, the maximum planning grants will be $5,000.
UK notes grant applications are available online at http://cedik.ca.uky.edu and proposals are due by 4 p.m. on Sept. 30.
Late entries will not be accepted. For questions regarding the Rural Community Grant Program, contact Aull at 859-257-7272, ext. 252, or firstname.lastname@example.org