Neighborhood Health Care patients get letter confirming centers will close on Dec. 31

Feds: Offer to keep centers open 'til April stands

CINCINNATI - In mid-December, saying it had lost federal funding, Neighborhood Health Care (NHC ) centers announced it would have to close, shuttering its centers in Walnut Hills/Evanston, Norwood, Harrison and Downtown, along with school-based health center programs at Rockdale Academy, South Avondale, and Hughes Center.

On Dec. 26, people who use the NHC centers received letters confirming the closure, effective Dec. 31. NHC says it services 4,000 patient visits per month.

One patient of the Walnut Hills location can't believe it will soon close its doors. Regina Coleman has been going to that clinic since she was a baby.

"I'm sad because I am so used to going there," Coleman told WCPO reporter Natasha Williams.

Nurse Michelle Bauman received a letter about the closings on Dec. 18. She was shocked to learn she would soon be out of work, and so soon after the holidays.

"Kinda hurts," Bauman said. "I spent all my money on Christmas knowing I have a job and I would have my next paycheck to pay the bills. Now I don't have a next paycheck."

The decision to shut down the local centers sent Coleman on the hunt for a new provider, and Bauman on the hunt for work.

"I gotta find one now," Coleman said. "It's gonna be a little hard, but I got to do what I got to do."

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)  earlier offered to extend funding for Neighborhood Health Care, Inc., HRSA director of communications, Martin Kramer, told WCPO.

Also on Dec. 26, Kramer confirmed that the funding extension offer still stands, to the tune of more than $440,000--enough to keep the centers operating until April.

“The key goal for our program is to continue services to the community,” Kramer said. The extension period would also allow patients to transition to new health care providers, he said.

Calls to NHC were not returned. Kramer said he could not say why or even if NHC had been rejected for 2014 funding.

He said NHC remains eligible to apply for HRSA funding in 2014, but HRSA has received “no eligible applications for the service area.”

In a statement, NHC said it found out Dec. 17 that HRSA decided not to approve the 2014 Service Area Competition (SAC) grant for NHC.

“We are saddened by this turn of events,” NHC said in its statement.

NHC acknowledged it had “struggled in recent years with operational infrastructure and rightsizing.”

The NHC statement thanked Interact for Health and HealthPoint Board of Directors “for providing financial aid and leadership support this year in the development of a sustainable 2014 operating plan. However, sustainability is not achievable without the federal funding for a new period to begin January 1, 2014.”

Interact for Health , formerly The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, says it awards grants to support health promotion programs and works through education, advocacy and action to improve the quality of life for people in 20 counties. HealthPoint  is a health-care provider in Northern Kentucky.

HRSA's website  says it is "the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable." That includes people living with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women, mothers, and children, it says.

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