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North Country Children's Clinic gets grant to serve adults

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The North Country Children's Clinic has been awarded a federal grant to help expand its services in Jefferson and Lewis Counties. Executive Director Aileen Martin says the Children's Clinic applied last year to become what's known as a Federally Qualified Health Center. And Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the Clinic that status.

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Julie Grant
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The North Country Children's Clinic Executive Director Aileen Martin says over the next year, the Children’s Clinic will begin to provide comprehensive primary and preventive care, including oral, mental health and substance abuse counseling.

"So that’s a very big announcement for us.  It’s $650,000 a year. To expand our pediatric care to provide care to adults," said Martin. She says the services are needed.  Based on the Clinic’s own surveys of the people who bring their children in for pediatric care, the clinic knows thousands of adults who need better access to medical care.

"So I know that in the community there are thousands more in Jefferson and Lewis counties who don’t have access to primary care.  Either because they are low income, or because they have Medicaid, which many health care providers do not accept," said Martin. She explained that the clinic had already begun preparing to serve adults in the Watertown office.  She says they don’t have a location yet for the new Lewis County clinic.

They plan to add a total of three doctors and five nurses in both clinics. Martin says they will bill patients without Medicaid or other insurance on a sliding scale, based on their income. Meanwhile, a group called Families USA, which says it is a voice for health care consumers, says the number of un-insured Americans has grown dramatically in recent years and that people are dying because they can’t afford medical costs.

Director Ron Pollack spoke with reporters from around the country in a telephone conference Wednesday. He says when people are un-insured, they often defer medical care, and said, "They defer care because they may not feel they can afford the care they need and as a result, at the onset of an illness or the onset of pain they don’t go to a doctor, hoping the pain will go away, the illness will go away, and for some people it doesn’t go away, it gets worse."

Pollack says more than 26,000 people died in 2010 because they didn’t have health insurance.  And New York was fourth in the country that year for deaths attributed to lack of insurance. Pollack and his group are hoping the Supreme Court will uphold the Affordable Care Act, known by some as Obama-care.  He says it will help more people afford insurance.

That same law is responsible for the grant money just announced for the North Country Children’s Clinic. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded more than $128 million in grants yesterday to community health centers around the country. The Supreme Court decision on the health insurance law is expected to be released any day now.                                                                   

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