TURNER – Medical services to residents and migrant workers here and across the state will be expanded and improved thanks to $456,000 in federal grants.

Representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation and officials from Augusta were in Turner to recognize the medical importance of community health centers and the outreach work of the Maine Migrant Health Program in providing access to medically underserved populations.

DFD Russell Medical Center, based in Leeds with additional sites in Turner and Monmouth, received a check for $219,000 while the Maine Migrant Health Program, which conducts monthly clinics at the medical center in Turner for agricultural workers, got $237,000.

“This grant will allow the center to improve access to primary care services and increase preventative health awareness,” said Russell Chief Executive Officer Laurie Kane.

With the funds, the center plans to add another physician and nurse practitioner as well as a certified nurse midwife to enhance women’s health services. A patient assistance coordinator will also be hired, Kane said, to improve enrollment in patient benefit plans, ensure access to low-cost pharmaceuticals and to support utilization of community-based resources.

Russell Medical Center is a federally authorized low-cost prescription provider at all three of its centers. The new coordinator will help get the center’s pharmacy program more thoroughly developed, which will allow patients greater access to the low-cost drugs. The center charges its patients on a sliding scale for both services and pharmaceuticals.

Currently, Russell Medical Center and the Maine Migrant Health Program conduct a monthly clinic for local agricultural workers. In central Maine and especially in the Turner area, that means providing services to workers from DeCoster Egg Farm as well as seasonal workers brought in to harvest apples and cranberries.

“Although farm workers play a critical role in our food supply, they are one of our country’s most vulnerable populations,” said Barbara Ginley, executive director of Migrant Health. The $237,000 boost to this program will allow mobile medical services to be expanded within existing harvesting areas and to start services to farm workers who have had no access to care.

The Migrant Program operates throughout the state and brings its mobile medical services to areas that have no other medical care facilities or where agricultural workers are medically underserved.

Brian Cresta, regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services, presented the checks at the Turner ceremony. He said health centers in Maine provide services to more than 100,000 uninsured and underinsured Mainers. But, he said, providing the services is not the entire story.

“Health centers save the Medicaid programs at least 30 percent in annual spending for health center Medicaid beneficiaries. In Maine, this translates to a savings of $3.24 for every federal dollar invested in Maine’s community health centers,” Cresta said.

Kevin Lewis, executive director of the Maine Primary Care Association, which represents Maine’s community health centers, said, “Maine community health centers are having a dramatic and positive impact on their patients. They are centers of excellence that significantly improve the quality of life for their patients, regardless of their ability to pay for those services. Community health centers respond to the needs of their communities.”

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