Golden Valley health Centers has big plans for stimulus funds

Golden Valley Health Centers received a second dose of federal stimulus funding, but needs to clear some hurdles before spending the money on brick-and- mortar projects to serve 6,600 additional patients.

In March, the nonprofit health system was given almost $1.2 million in federal funds to hire 42 health care workers and expand services at its safety-net clinics in Merced and Stanislaus counties.

A second grant awarded in June, disclosed recently on a federal Web site that tracks stimulus spending, included $2.5 million for capital improvements.

Golden Valley is spending $295,000 for a new elevator at its Florida Avenue clinic in Modesto. The project to improve safety for patients involves retrofitting the building with a new elevator shaft.

Pregnant women and other patients currently must use stairs or an old elevator to access the second-floor clinic, said Michael Sullivan, Golden Valley's executive director.

Other capital improvements are awaiting final approval from the federal government. After it was awarded the funds, Golden Valley was required to complete environmental reviews and submit paperwork to federal officials.

Sullivan expects to get approval by year's end or early next year. The other improvements would include:

Doubling the size of the Patterson health center to serve more patients and expand dental services. Golden Valley owns the property at 200 C St. and has space for the 6,200-square-foot addition.

Adding a permanent health clinic at Riverbank High School. The clinic would be housed in a modular building and provide health serv- ices for adolescents and fam- ilies five days a week.

Modernizing the Tenaya Avenue health center in southeast Modesto to include six dental examination rooms. This project is in limbo because of negotiations with the landlord and the lack of dental coverage for adult Medi-Cal patients, Sullivan said.

"We have a plan for the Tenaya center, but we are not comfortable yet that we can work through it all," Sullivan said.

Since the state suspended most dental benefits for adult Medi-Cal patients in July, Golden Valley has tried to serve more children at its dental clinics. The health care group will move forward with the expanded dental services in Patterson.

Sullivan said about 80 percent of its hiring goals have been achieved with funding from the first stimulus grant.

The funding for community health centers was intended to expand access to health care for the homeless, migrant workers and people who have lost insurance during the recession. Golden Valley contracted with physicians on a temporary basis to increase hours at certain clinics and gave jobs to registered nurses, medical assistants and office workers.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.