Settlement money is on the way to centers
State officials doled out $10 million in grants to health centers across Indiana on Thursday -- the first handout from the state's share of the tobacco settlement.
Forty organizations that serve 68 counties will share this first payout, which is just a sliver of the $4.6 billion Indiana is expected to receive from big cigarette companies -- the losers in a costly class-action lawsuit.
The money awarded Thursday will expand and create community health centers in poor and rural areas, where medical facilities are scarce and the number of uninsured people is high.
Gov. Frank O'Bannon, flanked by state health officials and lawmakers, made the announcement at the Barrington Health Center in Indianapolis, which will share $1.2 million with four other health centers in Marion County.
"Every family ought to be able to have the confidence, convenience and continuity of going to the same place every time for medical care," O'Bannon said.
During the 1999 legislative session, lawmakers wrangled over how to spend the state's first installment of the tobacco settlement -- about $112 million. They decided in the waning hours of the legislature to save half of the money and use the other half for health care -- allocating more money for anti-smoking education, children's health insurance, community health centers and prescription drugs for the elderly.
In this round of grants, Marion County netted almost $3 million. Sixty-two agencies applied for the grants through the State Department of Health, which coordinated the process. Dozens of state health officials, community residents and staffers from the governor's office reviewed the applications before awarding grants to the 40 organizations.
Barrington will use its grant to hire translators to serve the growing Hispanic population. It also will add more classes on subjects like controlling diabetes and living with high blood pressure for elderly clients.
"We want to educate our seniors so they will be able to take more responsibility for their health care on a daily basis," said Booker Thomas, president of HealthNet Community Health, which runs Barrington and four other Indianapolis health centers.
The money will help folks like Anna Buckner, an 87-year-old woman who has been coming to the Raymond Street health center for 20 years because the people are friendly and the care is affordable. "This has done wonders for me. I tell anyone that if you come here, you get good care."