Over the past year, Bond Community Health Center has suffered funding cuts from the Federal Government and been threatened with losing portions of its County budget. If nothing changes, some expect the center may soon need to close its doors. But the Center is looking to reallocate portions of its budget from Leon County to leverage for a little more than one million dollars in state matching funds.
Bond Community Health Center has served the Tallahassee community since 1984. But the past few years have been tumultuous for the clinic, which primarily serves low-income, under-insured, and uninsured Leon County residents.
Bond Chairman Antonio Jefferson says the recent challenges to the health center started two years ago when the officials fired then-CEO, J. R. Richards after he was arrested for drunk driving. Bernard Goodman was hired on a permanent basis in November of last year – But Jefferson says a number of interim CEOs filled in.
“The change in CEO and the temporary CEOs that came in between the permanents CEOs departure and the current CEO’s arrival contributed to the issues or the challenges that face the organization,” he says.
Since 1994, Bond has been a Federal Qualified Health Center. The federal title grants funding and benefits to health centers treating underserved communities. But last year, Bond lost its status as an FQHC when it turned in an incomplete application. Jefferson says the error was ultimately avoidable.
Following the announcement, Neighborhood Medical Center applied and received FQHC status instead – earning it more than $2 million of federal funding over the next three years. Even with the shift in funding, Jefferson insists the two health centers aren’t in competition.
“In Leon County,” he states, “we know that there is a need for both Bond as well as Neighborhood Health to provide services in the community because the need is so great there.”
Jefferson says on average, Bond treats as many as 16,000 patients. Even with layoffs and budget issues, Jefferson says the center hasn’t needed to cut any of its services.
“The community health center’s not going anywhere I mean, the loss of funding obviously has caused us to have to re-prioritize with how we go forth in the business of serving the community,” he states.
The question now is whether Bond will be able to leverage for state funds in the upcoming fiscal year. To do that, officials will need the Leon County Commission’s approval to reallocate a $300,000 portion of the center’s current budget to use as a matching fund. Candice Wilson, Director of Leon County’s Office of Human Services and Community Partnerships explains the request is nothing new.
“They’ve been doing that for a number of years, the board in prior years has supported that initiative," she says. “It allows them to take some of those county dollars and leverage it to bring down more dollars into the community, which in turn allows them the opportunity to assist more of the underserved population.
Both Bond and Neighborhood are required to provide evidence to the commission proving they've seen their quota of patients as part of their contracts with the county.
County Commissioners have raised concerns that not enough Bond patients are documented in the system. But Jefferson says that there’s no doubt Bond has met the threshold. He says they’ll be logged in time for the official November deadline, but the county is expected to make its decision Tuesday, Sept. 23.