A second $200,000 grant from Memorial Medical Center of Modesto and Sacramento-based Sutter Health will help maintain medical and psychiatric services for patients at Stanislaus County health clinics.
The grant for the county Health Services Agency continues support for a program serving about 400 people a month, at a time when county health and social services are threatened by budget cuts.
Sutter and Memorial gave the first $200,000 in November 2008.
"We are very appreciate to Memorial and Sutter Health for their support," said Mary Ann Lee, managing director of the Health Services Agency. "It is very helpful and good for our community."
Because of a nationwide shortage of mental health services, the primary care doctors in the six county health clinics see patients who need treatment for medical issues and psychiatric disorders.
In March 2008, about 160 people in the indigent health program were nearly cut off from psychiatric drug therapy when county officials recognized their doctors lacked the expertise to manage the drugs.
Instead of turning away the patients, county supervisors approved a pilot project which assigned mental health clinicians to assist the health clinic doctors 20 hours per week. That pilot project evolved into a broader program, launched in June 2009, serving children and adults covered by Medi-Cal and other government programs.
Sutter Health and Memorial decided the program was worthy of continued support.
"Sutter Health is committed to supporting the vital role of community clinics in providing care for the underserved in our community," said Catherine Larsen, a spokeswoman for Sutter Health and Memorial.
The grant comes from the Sutter Health Community Clinic Access to Care program, which gives assistance to community health clinics in Northern California that serve low-income patients. The nonprofit Memorial is part of the Sutter Health system.
Larsen said the grants are based on an assessment of health care needs in communities. She cited a Stanislaus County community needs survey in 2008, which showed that 31 percent of respondents who needed mental health care in the past year were unable to get it.
The grant funding has covered a significant percentage of the program's cost, Lee said. For example, the Health Services Agency cannot bill certain clinic visits to Medi-Cal or receive reimbursements for the care provided.
The latest grant also could be spent to expand outreach, train staff and improve translation services, Lee said.
With the county facing a $23.5 million general fund deficit next fiscal year, Lee was asked whether the program was in jeopardy before getting the second grant.
"If we didn't get the grant, I can't say exactly what we would do," she said. "But in these times, we have to be really aware of what services can be delivered with the available resources. We would have to take a look at it."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.