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Local health centers lose out

Posted: August 5, 2009 9:37 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hayley-Renee Cornell, 13, left, stands outside of the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, Inc. in Val Verde with her mom Catherine Cornell. The center, along with two other centers in the Santa Clarita Valley, will have to cut its budget drastically since it will not recieve any help from the federal stimulus money.

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State budget cuts have left many health centers for the poor without money, and state lawmakers’ assurances that federal stimulus money would make up the difference haven’t panned out, officials said Wednesday.

The three Samuel Dixon Health Centers in the Santa Clarita Valley are among those that will have to cut programs.

“The governor kept saying the state cuts won’t matter because the federal stimulus package would pick up the difference, but that’s obviously not true,” said Donna Trevelen, senior quality improvement coordinator at the California Primary Care Association.

“If our clients don’t have these programs, they won’t go to the doctor at all,” she said. “Our patients are all working or in school. It’s not like they are looking for a handout.”

At the Samuel Dixon Health Centers, which provide health care for local low- and moderate-income families, child health programs and breast cancer prevention programs will be eliminated or seriously cut back, said Cheryl Laymon, executive director for the centers.

Cuts include a $60,000 grant for Early Access Primary Care, which provides health care to low-income families, and a $30,000 grant earmarked for the Val Verde facility.

The problem, say Laymon, is: “We don’t have a ghetto here.”

Only health centers that meet federal qualifications can receive stimulus money, Laymon said. And none qualify if they’re in a relatively wealthy area, even if they serve pockets of individuals who are very needy.

“We don’t qualify for stimulus funding even though we serve the same demographics as the places that are receiving federal money,” Laymon said. “We do not have any real slums in Santa Clarita.”

While health clinics in the inner city are getting funds, the income level in the Santa Clarita Valley is too high to get the federal designation necessary to receive stimulus money.

“The Obama stimulus has been wonderful for federally qualified health centers because they’ve received money,” said Chris Patterson, spokesman for California Primary Care Association. “If you’re not a (Federally Qualified Health Center), you’ve gotten nothing from the stimulus.”

Statewide, 92 clinics received money from the stimulus plan, while stimulus checks skipped over 100 clinics in California, according to Patterson.

The federal stimulus package would have armed Samuel Dixon with the needed funds to absorb the hit to the California’s health care infrastructure from the newly passed state budget, Laymon said.   

Catherine Cornell is one of the patients at the Samuel Dixon health clinics who uses a program that may be eliminated. “Cancer runs in my family,” she said.

Cornell said the program is the only way she can get preventive care.

Targeting federal dollars in areas other than the Santa Clarita Valley isn’t fair, she said.

“I think people here need just as much help as anyone,” she said. “Just look at the amount of unemployment.”



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