By Sasha Lekach
Bay City News Service
An East Palo Alto family health center this week was awarded more than $7 million of federal money to fund a project to assist patients with chronic conditions who live below the poverty level.
Ravenswood Family Health Center, located at 1798A Bay Road in East Palo Alto, serves southeast San Mateo County and was one of 26 awardees nationwide to receive $7.3 million from the U.S. Health and Human Services department.
This is the first time an award for this type of project has been distributed through the federal department, according to Andres R. Connell, executive director of Nuestra Casa, who works with Ravenswood to provide community support to patients.
Ravenswood was chosen from an original list of 20,000 applicants that was winnowed down to 3,000 before 26 awardees were selected.
The center applied with the hope of using federal money for a Health Care Innovation Project projected to affect 19,000 patients.
With the award money, Ravenswood's project aims to train care managers who can help patients follow their health care plans, especially for patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions.
The center expects the project to save more than $6 million over a three-year period, as more patients are able to obtain services and receive the care and treatment they need.
Nearly 90 percent of Ravenswood patients are at or below the federal poverty level, and many patients are uninsured.
The project will also support health-industry jobs. Connell said five new employees from Nuestra Casa will be hired as community health navigators. They will provide assistance beyond medical care, such as finding housing or other external resources.
"The clinic will do the medical side and we will provide the backbone support for all community services," Connell explained.
Connell said over the three years the project will create as many as 30 new jobs.
Ravenswood has also partnered with the Health Plan of San Mateo, and San Mateo County Health System to operate the project.
He said he met with Ravenswood executive director Luisa Buada to discuss the implementation of the project, which is expected to roll out within the next five months.
Nationwide, $122.6 million was awarded to health and research centers. Only two Bay Area health centers were selected for the award, Connell said.