More than $2.2 million in federal funding headed to Big Island community health centers

  • West Hawaii Community Health Center Kuakini Clinic has a triage tent set up for their patients who meet coronavirus criteria for testing. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

More than $2.2 million in federal grant funding is headed to Big Island community health centers to assist their efforts in responding to, preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19.

The funding, which is among more than $10 million headed to 14 Hawaii community health centers across the state, comes via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third coronavirus relief package approved by Congress.

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It can be used for the detection, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

“Health centers play a major role in our state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Schatz. “This new federal funding will help our health centers keep Hawaii families safe.”

West Hawaii Community Health Center, which serves 25% of West Hawaii’s population, is slated to receive $783,110 while Bay Clinic will get $876,290. Hamakua-Kohala Health is expected to get $596,360.

West Hawaii Community Health Center CEO Richard Taaffe said the funds will provide “important and immediate relief” that will allow the nonprofit to continue serving West Hawaii during the pandemic.

“In the past month alone, WHCHC lost over $550,000 in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we anticipate the losses to continue for several more months. Despite these loss revenues, WHCHC is committed to remain open and to serving our community and our patients,” he said. “These relief funds are vital in sustaining West Hawaii Community Health Center over the immediate short term.”

The center is also working with state Medicaid officials, and other nonprofit agencies to ensure long-term sustainability for West Hawaii Community Health Center and all sister health centers around Hawaii, he said.

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“Through these challenging times West Hawaii Community Health Center continues to provide in person and telehealth medical and behavioral health visits, emergency dental services and corona virus testing for all the residents of our community – especially our most vulnerable people who have underlying and chronic health conditions,” he said. “We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from the people of West Hawaii. Daily donations of PPE, hand sewn masks, and food have raised the spirits of our staff who are on the front lines working to keep our community safe during this pandemic.”

The funding adds to about $1 million allocated to Hawaii community health center in the first relief package.

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