The Appalachian Nurse Practitioner Clinic at the University of North Georgia (UNG) is partnering with Georgia Mountain Health Services (GMHS), which has received a federal grant that will support the clinic's continued service to patients in this area. The $174,901 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow the two health care providers to merge and will mark the clinic as a federally-qualified health center, a reimbursement designation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a total of $150 million to support 236 health center sites across the country, 10 of which are in Georgia. The Appalachian Nurse Practitioner Clinic, which serves patients from seven counties and has been funded previously by grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration, had no funding to continue operating after June 30.
"This is amazing news," said Dr. Kim Hudson-Gallogly, head of UNG's Department of Nursing. "I am so relieved that the residents of Lumpkin and its surrounding counties will continue to have the care they deserve, and that our employees and physical therapy staff will continue to have this space to deliver care. Georgia Mountain Health Services did an amazing job putting together their application, and now our providers can continue to give excellent care surpassing all health benchmarks."
The clinic began operating in 2005, and was aiming to become self-sustainable. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on federal poverty guidelines, but the number of uninsured patients at or below the poverty line makes it difficult for the clinic to support itself financially.
GMHS was established in Fannin County during the 1980s as a non-profit provider of health care services. Currently, the staff provides quality medical and dental care through offices in Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, and Whitfield counties.
"The grant award is recognition that Lumpkin County is one of the more medically-underserved areas in the entire country," said Steven Miracle, CEO of GMHS. "Funding for this clinic will expand the services available for these residents and others. Expanding the availability of low-cost, high-quality medical services will, over time, benefit individuals, families and the community."
Dr. Toni Barnett, professor of nursing and a provider at the clinic, said before the UNG clinic opened, many patients sought medical care at emergency rooms and other locations offering urgent care.
With some 1,400 active patients, the clinic averages some 15 to 20 patients a day, and accepts patients from Lumpkin, Dawson, White, Hall, Gilmer, Towns, and Union counties. Besides offering affordable, high-quality care, the location also serves as a clinical site for UNG's nurse practitioner students. Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing also can perform their physical assessments at the clinic, and students in the associate degree program who miss a clinical assignment can use the clinic as a make-up site.
"It has always been our goal to benefit this community, which is in a much-underserved region," said Julia Daniel, a family nurse practitioner providing care at the clinic. "It has been one of our greatest challenges to establish this partnership, but it was well worth it — we need to be here."
The clinic provides many services and outreach programs as well, including monthly blood pressure checks and health education events at senior centers in Lumpkin and Dawson counties, health fairs including cholesterol testing, a community outreach with partner Fresh n' Frugal grocery store that includes health screenings, and quarterly newsletters to communities in Lumpkin, Dawson and White counties.
To view more information about the clinic, including care, please visit http://ung.edu/nursing/anpc/index.php.