(Barstow)– – Low-income and uninsured Barstow residents can expect to have access soon to a full range of primary and preventative health care services through the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health clinic in Barstow, after the department received a grant that will enable it to qualify for additional federal funding.
“With continuing high unemployment in the High Desert, it is important that those without health insurance have access to high quality primary and preventative care services,” said First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who also sits on the governing board of the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), the health insurance program for low-income residents in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Supervisor Mitzelfelt has been working with local hospitals, the County Department of Public Health and health care providers to expand access to primary health care and take the burden off local emergency rooms.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote today on accepting a $200,000 grant from the IEHP Federally Qualified Health Center Partnership Fund, which will allow the Department of Public Health to add medical staff and equipment to the Barstow clinic. Those improvements will enable it to qualify for designation as a Federally Qualified Health Clinic. Designation as an FQHC will make the clinic eligible for increased federal funding and allow it to provide primary and preventative health care to an estimated 1,500 additional High Desert residents.
The Barstow clinic currently provides a limited array of services, such as reproductive health services and immunizations, and is only open part-time. Once designated a Federally Qualified Health Clinic, it will be open five days per week and will be able to handle routine health care and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma. Low-income residents with chronic conditions often receive little or no regular health care and wind up in the emergency room when they are in crisis.
The county currently has two Federally Qualified Health Clinics, both in the High Desert: one in Adelanto and another in Hesperia, which received the designation last year. The two clinics provide preventative primary health care services such as physical examinations targeting health risks, nutrition assessment, preventative health education, well child care, prenatal and postpartum care, dental care, and mental health services to an estimated 7,376 adults and children annually. The Department of Public Health expects to obtain the FQHC designation for the Barstow clinic in the first half of next year.
Designation as a Federally Qualified Health Clinic allows the County Department of Public Health to access federal and state grants that are only available to FQHC grantees, which can be used to continue enhancing services for the High Desert communities. Services are provided on a sliding scale, with residents at or below the poverty line receiving services at no charge, and those above the poverty line paying what they can afford based on their income. For information on public health services, call 800-782-4264.