A health care provider serving rural areas throughout Luzerne and Wyoming counties and with a clinic for the homeless in Wilkes-Barre was recently awarded a $3 million grant.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $3,074,309 to Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania to help the organization continue providing care to underserved communities, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright announced Thursday.
Rural Health Corporation of NEPA was established in response to a trend in the late 1960s, when many small towns faced the loss of medical care as more and more physicians in rural communities moved to or established practices in the region’s cities and suburbs, according to the organization’s website.
Few were interested in a career as country doctors working long hours and with no partners to share coverage, and for many rural residents without transportation or insurance, accessing health care became a hardship.
To meet the health care needs of the residents of the rural areas of Wyoming and Luzerne counties, concerned citizens and community leaders collaborated with the Federal Office of Health Affairs.
In 1970, Rural Health Corporation was established, becoming part of a national network of community health centers. Between 1971 and 1979, five family practice health centers, three of which continue to also provide dental care, were established in the rural communities of Wyoming and Luzerne counties.
A sixth practice site specializing in pediatrics also was established during this time, and pharmacy services were made available as well. In July, the pediatrics center relocated from Saxton Pavilion to the nearby Gateway Plaza in Edwardsville.
Rural Health Corporation’s last expansion was to downtown Wilkes-Barre, where in 1988, a special clinic was established to serve the area’s homeless. It’s located above the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen on East Jackson Street.
Rural Health Corp. CEO Tiffany Tankalavage said that because the corporation is a federally qualified health care provider, it must provide “a higher level of quality health care to receive these grants.”
“For example, diabetic patients will have a lot more checkpoints for quality care than with, say, Geisinger or Commonwealth Health. You get more one-on-one time with physicians at one of our centers,” she said.
All major insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, is accepted, and the homeless receive free care at the Wilkes-Barre clinic, Tankalavage said.
The grant, which will renew annually for three years, will support the health corporation’s $7 million annual budget, she said.
The Health Center Cluster Grants Program is awarded on a competitive basis to grantees that have demonstrated quality care to their communities, according to Cartwright’s office.
“Community health centers remain a crucial part of our system to provide everyone with access to affordable, quality care,” said Cartwright, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Contact the writer:
Rural Health Corp. of NEPA locations
• Black Creek Health Center and Black Creek Dental, 75 Pineapple St., Nuremberg.
• Monroe-Noxen Health Center and Monroe-Noxen Dental, 2888 SR 29 South, Noxen.
• Freeland Health Center and Freeland Dental, 404 Ridge St., Freeland.
•Exeter Township Health Center, 2795 Sullivan’s Trail, Falls.
•Shickshinny Health Center, 26 N. Main St., Shickshinny.
•Valley Pediatrics, Gateway Shopping Center, Edwardsville.
• McKinney Clinic for the Homeless, 39 E. Jackson St., Wilkes-Barre.
Visit www.rhcnepa.com or call 570-825-8741 for information.