Despite losing grant bid, Belfast practice committed to community health center

Posted Aug. 15, 2011, at 7:25 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Last fall, Dr. David Loxtercamp of Seaport Family Practice had high hopes that his agency would receive a large federal grant to build a community health center and improve medical service to area residents.

But those hopes were dashed last week when Seaport Family Practice was not among the 67 applications selected to receive the Federally Qualified Health Center grants from a pool of more than 800 applicants nationwide.

Federally Qualified Health Centers must offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, care for the underserved and have a governing board of directors.

No applicants in Maine or New England were among the grant recipients, Loxtercamp said Monday morning.

“What we’re going to do is take a deep breath, take a look at our [application] score, and make a decision as to what’s best for the practice and for the community,” he said. “Clearly, we’re dedicated to the ideals of a community health center and the need for a community health center in Belfast. We know that this community deserves one, and needs one.”

Loxtercamp announced last September that if the grant was approved, the practice would join into a partnership with Penobscot Community Health Care of Bangor. The grant would have provided about $650,000 a year to build a new health center and to provide more than 50 new jobs, as well as “one-stop shopping” for patients. It would have included an emphasis on community health and included services such as dentistry, more integrated mental health care, a pharmacy and rehabilitation.

However, Loxtercamp said the agency’s options are now on the table.

“We’re still committed to the idea of a patient-centered medical home,” he said.

There is a possibility that the agency will have scored highly enough to be accepted in the next round of federal approvals, he said, adding that federal budget cuts decreased the numbers of grant recipients from 350 to 67.

If that isn’t a possibility, Loxtercamp thinks another organization may be interested in helping Seaport Family Practice build a community health center in Belfast.

“We’re hopeful that something good will come out of this,” he said.

As part of the practice’s commitment to its community, it has made efforts over the last few years to provide health care that is more accessible and comprehensive than in the past — following the model of the patient-centered medical home.

Toward that end, Loxtercamp said that half of the daily appointment slots for each provider at the agency are left open so that people with acute medical needs can be seen immediately instead of waiting or going to the emergency room. Also, practitioners work in teams to best treat each patient, medical records are electronic and accessible to patients, and the practice has a focus on teaching medical students in a community setting. A behavioral therapist who works in the office stays busy helping patients suffering from grief, depression, addiction, anxiety and other troubles, he said.

Although the grant would have been crucial in getting a new health center built and running quickly, a slower time table does not mean that the doctors are defeated, Loxtercamp said.

“Somehow, this is still going to happen,” he said.

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