As a part of the Strengthening the Safety Net Program, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan presented another clinic grant last Friday, December 13th. The program helps aid the uninsured and underinsured in Michigan, by supporting clinic operations, assist individuals with enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, and support patient dental care. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has given more than $9 million towards safety grants since 2005. In fact, $1 million was given to Michigan Safety Net clinics in 2013. To the communities that play home to the free clinics, the grants and the clinics themselves serve as a lifeline and a critical facet of the surrounding region’s health care status. The grant for the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center will aid in targeting substance abuse, mental health, chronic illness, and more in patients 13 and older in their recently opened Houghton County clinics. Within Houghton County, more than 9,000 individuals are underserved and uninsured, which translates to approximately 15% of the area population. "One goal (of the grant) is to prevent unneeded emergency room visits, and costs, by providing opportunities for patients to go to their own communities for primary care,” explains BCBSM director of Community Responsibility, Suzanne Miller-Allen. The check was presented at a press conference last week at the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center. Clinic CEO Donald Similia reiterated that the grant allows for, “(the clinic) to help thousands of families in the Upper Peninsula by addressing both primary and behavioral health care and, thus, better treat the whole person.” Also integral in making the Gwinn clinic grant a possibility was State Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) and State Representative John Kivela (D-Marquette). Both officials played a large role in helping secure the grant, as well as providing a source of leadership on health care issues within the Upper Peninsula communities.
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