Bonnieva Bitsuie, Utah Navajo Health System contracted maintenance worker and housekeeper, lifts her face shield to take a sip of Gatorade while working with a mobile COVID-19 testing unit outside of the Montezuma Creek Community Health Center in Montezuma Creek, San Juan County, on May 1, 2020. Utah Navajo Health System is one of 11 Utah health centers to receive funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that it awarded $7,247,812 of funding from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act to 11 health centers in Utah for 16 projects to expand primary health care infrastructure in medically underserved communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
The funding comes through the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the centers will use this money to relieve some of the local struggles with the COVID-19 resurgence, including capital needs related to the disease, securing freezers to store COVID-19 vaccines, purchasing mobile vans to reach and vaccinate underserved communities, purchasing new equipment to better enable telehealth or construct, renovate and expand facilities to better handle future public health challenges.
The Utah centers that have received the funding are located in:
- Garden City, Rich County
- Sunnyside, Carbon County
- West Valley City
- Green River, Emery County
- St. George
- Cedar City
- Montezuma Creek, San Juan County
- Salt Lake City
- Bicknell, Wayne County
“Health centers are lifelines for many of our most vulnerable families across the country, especially amidst the pandemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to American Rescue Plan funds, we’re modernizing facilities across the country to better meet the most pressing public health challenges associated with COVID-19. This historic investment means we get to expand access to care for COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination – all with an eye towards advancing equity.”
Because medically underserved and marginalized communities tend to be hit hardest by the pandemic and other health conditions, the funds will be awarded to health centers in these areas to ensure that they will have more equitable access to high-quality primary care. More than 91% of these health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and nearly 63% are racial or ethnic minorities.
“HRSA-funded health centers play a vital role in the local community response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Diana Espinosa, acting administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration. “Investing in health center construction and modernization will significantly increase access to affordable, high-quality primary health care services in underserved communities across the nation.”