Sapphire Community Health Center gets federal funding

By Michael Howell of the Bitterroot Star | May 13, 2015

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that Sapphire Community Health Center, a non-profit health care provider in Hamilton, will be the recipient of $704,167 in federal funding made available through the Affordable Care Act. The health care center that serves clients on a sliding scale fee adjusted to the patient’s income level was started about 15 years ago in a facility owned by the Human Resources Council that was remodeled to house the health care services.

Initial funding to open the clinic came through one-time grants from the state and District 11 Human Resources Council. It was not enough money to fund the operations and the center closed its doors within 18 months, in 2011. According to Board Chair Carlotta Grandstaff, the center has applied for federal funding repeatedly but unsuccessfully, six or seven times since closing its doors. This time, however, they hit the jackpot. Grandstaff says they will receive over $700,000 this year and about $650,000 next year. Sapphire Community Health Center was the only clinic to be funded in the state of Montana.

Grandstaff said the clinic is perfectly poised to use the grant money.

“Recipients are required to open the doors to their facility within four months of receiving the funding and we’ve got the doors to open already,” referring to the facility located at 303 North 3rd Street in Hamilton. She said the facility was remodeled to meet the needs of a health clinic and was ready to go. “All we need to do is staff it,” she said.

Grandstaff said that since word has gotten out about the funding, she has been contacted by several people asking if this is the Title X money that the county commissioners rejected last year. It is not. But according to Grandstaff, given the current grant ensuring an active center for a few years, they would certainly be in a position to apply for those funds. She said if no other local clinic applies they would certainly consider it.

“One way or another that funding is coming back to Ravalli County,” said Grandstaff, a former county commissioner.

Grandstaff wanted to emphasize that Sapphire Community Health Center was not a clinic specializing in care for women and children.

“We serve everyone regardless of race or gender, regardless of whether they are insured, underinsured or uninsured, and charge patients on a sliding scale fee. No one is turned away,” she said. “We have a lot of opportunity here to make our clinic whatever the community needs it to be. We can grow in whatever direction is required to meet the community’s needs.”