Comtrea, which provides mental health care in Jefferson County, expects to add primary and dental health to its services after receiving a federal grant Wednesday of nearly $600,000.
The grant was part of $128.6 million awarded nationwide to expand community health centers that accept patients with government insurance coverage. Other Missouri recipients were Ozarks Resource Group in Hermitage and Community Health Center of Central Missouri in Jefferson City, which both received $650,000.
The grants were funded by the Affordable Care Act health reform law, which passed in 2010 and expands health insurance programs, including Medicaid. Wednesday’s announcement of the awards by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius comes as a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is pending on challenges to the constitutionality of the federal law. It is unclear how a ruling against the law would affect the funding and programs that have already launched.
Comtrea had applied to become a federally qualified community health center to round out its behavioral and mental health and substance abuse programs, said Stephen Huss, the organization’s president.
Many of the 6,000 mental health patients that Comtrea treats every year get sidetracked by diabetes, high blood pressure or other physical conditions, Huss said. With the go-ahead to start a primary health care program, the group plans to eventually hire two full-time primary care physicians, four nurse practitioners and at least one dentist plus a support staff for a clinic to be built.
“It makes us a truly functionally integrated health center that can handle any problem,” Huss said. Patients “don’t have to tell their story to five different people, it will all be in the same medical record.”
The primary care and dental services will initially be offered under agreements with a clinic in Byrnes Mill and Jefferson County Health Department facilities.
Eventually, the plan is to build a medical clinic on a 45-acre Hillsboro farm that Comtrea purchased for $1.5 million in April to develop a horse therapy center and domestic violence shelter.