RCHC to partner with Blue Ridge Community Health

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 05:29 AM

Rutherford Community Health Center is expanding.

On its second try, Blue Ridge Community Health Services (BRCHS) has received grant funding which will directly impact Rutherford County.

BRCHS received $850,000 through the Affordable Care Act which will be used to open a new health center through the Rutherford Community Health Center (RCHC).

It means RCHC will move from being independently run to falling under the umbrella of BRCHS.

"This is something we have worked on doing for the last 3-4 years," said RCHC Executive Director Sandra McGriff. "It is a great partnership and Blue Ridge has a lot of experience."

Milton Butterworth, director of community engagement for BRCHS, said the grant will assist in expanding services and transitioning RCHC from a "look-alike" health clinic to a full-range clinic. He said the plan is for the new clinic to be operational by March 1, 2014.

Since 2004, RCHC moved from being a free clinic to a "look-alike," meaning the were not eligible for federal subsidies.

When the move is complete, RCHC will move from its "look-alike" status to a full community health clinic which means it will qualify for federal dollars.

"It's exciting," Butterworth said. "Community health centers are the largest national network of medical providers in the nation."

Part of the proposed expansion includes adding dental and nutritional services not currently provided at RCHC. Butterworth said those services won't be available on March 1 but should be ready by the end of the year.

Additionally, the staff at RCHC will remain the same as will the name of the facility.

"The number of full-time employees is basically the same in the grant as they have now," Butterworth said. "I would expect the same employees to be there when we open the doors."

McGriff said the process of falling under the umbrella of Blue Ridge was spurred because of the climbing costs of providing services to the uninsured.

"The number of uninsured has grown and we have to find ways to sustain and going under the umbrella of Blue Ridge was just good timing for us," McGriff said.

RCHC will continue to accept patients without insurance on a sliding scale that is based on family size and household income.

McGriff said the new arrangement will help the process of adding providers to the clinic and evaluate services being offered currently and for the future.

"When you talk about what we have tried to do, we started as a free clinic four days a week," McGriff said. "We have quickly expanded and we have tried to find ways to keep expanding to serve residents but it has been a struggle to sustain. I'm excited about what this opportunity will mean for Rutherford County."