Wheeler’s center designated as federally qualified health center


logo-wheelerWheeler Clinic’s Health and Wellness Center at 10 North Main St., Bristol, has been awarded a new access point grant as a federally qualified health center  by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration to expand health care services to meet the needs of residents of Bristol and the surrounding communities. The center was designated as a federally qualified health center look-alike in May and has now been selected to receive community health center funding.

Wheeler’s award to serve the Bristol community is a part of the $169 million investment in Affordable Care Act funding to 266 new health center sites in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for the delivery of comprehensive primary health care services in communities that need them most. These new health center sites are projected to increase access to health care services for over 1.2 million patients across the country.

“This award will significantly strengthen our efforts to meet the needs of underserved residents in Bristol and the surrounding communities by providing critical financial support that will allow Wheeler to expand integrated primary care, behavioral health and dental services to meet community needs,” said Susan Walkama, LCSW, president and chief executive officer, Wheeler Clinic, in a press release. “The investment strengthens our efforts to work with local community partners to deliver high-quality, accessible care to medically underserved, low-income and vulnerable individuals and families.

“The outstanding support we’ve received from Kurt Barwis and Bristol Hospital, local social service providers and Bristol leaders, including Mayor (Ken) Cockayne and Representative (Betty) Boukus, Representative (Whit) Betts and Representative Nicastro, speaks to this community’s commitment to ensuring accessible, efficient, whole-person care is available locally,” said Walkama in the press release. “We are also incredibly grateful for the advocacy of Governor (Dannel) Malloy, Lieutenant Governor (Nancy) Wyman, Senator (Richard) Blumenthal and Congressman (John) Larson. Their support of our efforts in Bristol was instrumental in bringing these critical resources to Connecticut.”

“The receipt of this grant on the 50th anniversary of the country’s first heath care center(s) is especially notable,” added Walkama in the press release. “For decades, community health care centers have effectively met the demand for primary care and other services in communities where they are most needed. Wheeler shares this commitment to meeting community need through comprehensive, integrated care that helps individuals and families live healthier lives.”

The news release from Wheeler said Bristol has been identified by federal authorities as a primary care, mental health and dental health professional shortage area. The service area is characterized by high rates of uninsured and low-income individuals and families living below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. More than 10,000 low-income residents of Bristol have limited access to primary care services, and 8.7 percent of city residents are uninsured, reported the news release. Currently, the release said, only 18 percent of the low-income population in the service area receives care from a federally qualified health center.