A new competitive grant program seeks to help Wyoming bridge the primary-care gap in some rural communities.
Wyoming officials have long complained about a physician shortage in Wyoming. A 2008 study
showed that 20 of 23 counties in the state have fewer than the national average of primary care physicians. Additionally, in three rural counties about a third of physicians indicated they would retire by 2012.
"Wyoming has trouble importing physicians since no medical school or physician assistant education programs exist in Wyoming," the study stated.
To combat the problem, the Wyoming Department of Health has instituted a $1 million grant program to fulfill unmet health-care needs in one or more of these communities. A winning community will need to provide a 25 percent cash or in-kind community match along with a letter of support from its county commission. The grant program will provide funds to new and existing Community Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics, both federally designated statuses. According to a release, the grants can be used to start up a new clinic, expand an existing clinic, initiate new services or comply with quality criteria like implementing costly new electronic medical records.
"We know that access to quality medical care is not as robust as we would like in several areas of Wyoming," said Keri Wagner, program specialist in the Wyoming Department of Health's Office of Rural Health in a release. "It's our hope that community leaders will consider this grant as a first step to open more doors to primary care providers and encourage local residents to help take care of their health."
Wagner told the Business Report
that it is hard to gauge whether the $1 million grant will go to multiple communities or if it will instead act as seed-money for a larger project like building a new clinic somewhere.
"There are definitely areas in the state that we do know do not have access to care or have little access to care," Wagner said in a phone interview. Consequently, an application for a new clinic in one of those areas would probably receive more weight.
The Wyoming Primary Care Association will serve as a partner for the grant's administration.
"Based on our work to improve primary care in Wyoming, we know there are many communities that could benefit from this grant to increase access to health care for their residents," said Patrick Monahan, the association's executive director.
The request for proposals period will close on May 31. The grant application and guidance can be found online here.
For more information, questions or technical assistance, please contact the Wyoming Primary Care Association at (307) 632-5743 ext. 11.
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