ASHLAND, Maine — Residents of Ashland and those in need of medical care in surrounding communities will benefit from a $300,000 federal grant that will help expand local health care services.
The grant, which was announced late last month, was the result of a collaborative effort to secure funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will establish a federally qualified health center in the community.
The grant to expand Ashland Health Center was written by Katahdin Valley Health Center officials, who worked cooperatively with leadership at The Aroostook Medical Center, the town of Ashland and the nonprofit Aroostook Valley Health Center board of directors.
Katahdin Valley Health Center operates four other qualified health centers in Houlton, Island Falls, Millinocket and Patten. In the coming months, primary health care services provided at the Ashland Health Center will transition from TAMC to KVHC.
The center now offers comprehensive primary health care services and the $300,000 funding will allow for the addition of oral health and behavioral health services to people in the region of all ages, regardless of ability to pay.
Federally qualified health centers receive enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, among other benefits. The facilities must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, and have a quality assurance program and a governing board of directors, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Durward Humphrey, KVHC chief executive officer, said that the move will allow KVHC to continue to provide quality health care services at the Ashland Clinic and give it the opportunity to expand those services. He said the center will determine which services to provide in the future by conducting a community needs assessment within the next year.
“We look forward to a collaborative relationship with not only TAMC but also the communities that we are driven to serve,” he said.
The Ashland Health Center will be operated as a freestanding clinic integrated within KVHC’s network of care and is housed on the upper level of the Virginia S. Pinkham Building at 33 Walker St.
TAMC specialty services will be expanded shortly after the start of the new year at the Ashland Health Center. Renovation work on the ground level of the Ashland Health Center will begin in the coming weeks to allow for TAMC’s eye care services to expand into the region.
Dr. Mark Morin, an Ashland native and ophthalmologist, will begin to see patients in his hometown on a regular basis at the facility.
Janet Jandreau, vice president of the Aroostook Valley Health Center board of directors, said recently that the collaborative effort between KVHC and TAMC to expand both primary and specialty care services to residents of Ashland and surrounding towns is exciting.
“The Aroostook Valley Health Center Board of Directors is pleased that this collaborative effort will bring so much more health care services to the Ashland area,” she said. “We have been so fortunate to receive the outstanding level of care provided by TAMC at our health center for a number of years. We are excited with the new collaborative effort between TAMC and KVHC that will expand primary health care services and bring additional specialty care services to our community.”
Town officials also were happy with what the news would mean for the region’s health and economy.
“As we realize new and expanding economic development opportunities,” said Ralph Dwyer, Ashland town manager, “access to quality health care services will be critical in our efforts to retain and draw new businesses to our region, in turn bringing new jobs and people to our local communities.”
The transition between TAMC and KVHC as the primary health care provider at the Ashland Health Center is expected to be complete before March 1. TAMC staff members at the Ashland Health Center have been offered the opportunity to remain at the facility and become employees of KVHC or to transition to other positions within TAMC.