An Oct. 6 Metro article incorrectly stated the amount of a federal grant obtained by the D.C. Primary Care Association for the Medical Homes project. The grant is worth $2.5 million. (Published 10/10/2005)
The District awarded $1 million yesterday to seven nonprofit groups that plan to open two health clinics and expand seven existing ones as part of a citywide effort to bring basic medical care to underserved neighborhoods.
The awards are the first under the Medical Homes D.C. initiative, a 10-year project that aims to make doctors available to an estimated 210,000 District residents who live in areas that lack access to routine medical services.
The project also seeks to provide treatment for such common illnesses as asthma, diabetes and hypertension.
"Two years ago, we made a commitment to the Medical Homes initiative. And I'm very happy to say it has become a reality," Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said at his weekly news conference at the John A. Wilson Building.
Sharon Baskerville, executive director of the D.C. Primary Care Association, which is spearheading the initiative, called the awards "the culmination of about seven years of effort, building political will to get people to understand the importance" of primary care.
"I am very proud to represent people who have, before any resources were dedicated, provided to this city good, compassionate, quality care on a shoestring, regardless of people's ability to pay," Baskerville said. "This is the first time that shoestring's been widened and lengthened a little bit."
The District has pledged $17 million toward the project over the next three years, adding to a $25 million federal grant that the primary care association obtained in 2003. Baskerville said that the association is using the cash to leverage private funds and that it hopes to raise $145 million to build and expand clinics in underserved areas, primarily in the city's eastern half.
The need for better primary care services was underscored vividly in January, when a report released by the primary care association found that nearly half of D.C. residents live in neighborhoods that have a critical shortage of doctors. Despite an abundance of major medical centers and specialists in the nation's capital, the report found that more than one in five adults in five eastern and southern Zip codes have no regular source of primary or preventive care.
To remedy the problem, Medical Homes wants to build a community health care network that would give every person a place to go for routine checkups. That network began to take shape yesterday as Williams announced the award of planning grants to expand clinics operated by Unity Health Care Inc. and Family and Medical Counseling Service Inc. in Ward 8, Bread for the City in Ward 2, Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care in Ward 4, Community of Hope and La Clinica del Pueblo in Ward 1 and So Others Might Eat in Ward 5.
Unity Health Care Inc. and Bread for the City also were awarded grants to open clinics in Wards 5 and 7.
An additional $7 million is scheduled to be awarded next year.
Williams has described Medical Homes as part of a continuum of care under construction since the city closed D.C. General Hospital. Since then, the city has launched its Health Care Alliance, a publicly funded insurance program, and proposed construction of a National Capital Medical Center on the old D.C. General site.
Yesterday, one architect of Medical Homes, Brookings Institution scholar Alice M. Rivlin, said she has "not been very enthusiastic" about the new medical center.
"The real need is not for more hospital beds," Rivlin said. "It's for more primary care and keeping people out of hospital beds and emergency rooms."