ETSU community clinics get COVID-19 testing grant

Brandon Paykamian • May 11, 2020 at 8:40 PM

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced more than $1 million in grants for local community clinics last week in an effort to expand access to COVID-19 testing.

East Tennessee State University received $192,454 for its Johnson City Community Health Center, Johnson City Downtown Day Center, Hancock County Elementary School clinic and Hancock County High School clinic. The funding was made available through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

Silas Tolan, executive director of the ETSU College of Nursing Community Health Centers, said the funding will go toward COVID-19 testing and other safety expenditures associated with the outbreak, including the need for masks.

“Some of that funding will also go to purchasing more personal protective equipment for our staff, and hopefully we will be able to put up some additional protective measures in place for our patients this weekend to do our part to mitigate the spread,” Tolan said.

The university recently partnered with the Tennessee Department of Health to host free COVID-19 testing for nearly 830 residents in April.

Tolan said ETSU’s community clinics have tested 50 to 60 patients so far. He said it’s important to expand testing for more uninsured and low-income patients.

“It’s important to do that because the uninsured population makes up a large part of our patient population we see at our clinics,” he said. “To be able to provide more testing for them at no cost is a very important step in mitigation plans for any pandemic.”

In addition to funding for ETSU’s clinics, Rural Health Services in Newport received $243,409 and the Rural Health Services Consortium in Rogersville also received $608,524 through the grants.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said the funding will be important for the region as the local economy begins to open back up. He said local community health centers provide health care services for many essential workers who are uninsured.

Roe applauded President Donald Trump’s administration for making the funding available in a Friday statement to the Press.

“The Trump administration has quickly distributed each wave of relief funding made available for these health centers, and I’m pleased that HHS has again quickly ensured Northeast Tennessee has the resources it needs to enable a safe reopening of our region. These grants will go a long way to provide these health centers with testing resources and personal protective equipment needed for our community to safely return to work,” Roe said.

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