Whitman-Walker Health, the nonprofit community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS and LGBT-sensitive health care, was recognized Nov. 8 as a Federally Qualified Health Center by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), enabling it to receive a funding grant to support services provided at Whitman-Walker's two health centers, in D.C.'s Logan Circle and Anacostia neighborhoods.
The award is given as part of the federal government's efforts to expand access to primary health care under the Affordable Care Act. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last week that $150 million would be given to 236 health centers to help provide services to more than 1.25 million additional patients. Whitman-Walker is the only health center in the D.C. metropolitan area to receive such a grant.
The designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) is given to community-based organizations that provide comprehensive primary and preventative care, including oral health, mental health or substance abuse services to patients regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status.
''Our mission is to provide the highest quality, culturally competent care to Washington's diverse urban community including those who face barriers to accessing care and with special expertise in LGBT and HIV care, '' Adam Falcone, chair of the board of directors of Whitman-Walker Health, said in a statement. ''This award will further our health center's ongoing efforts to care for our community in a post-health care reform world.''
Whitman-Walker's designation as an FQHC comes after an eight-year-long transition, as initiated by the board of directors, from an AIDS service organization to a primary health care center serving the needs of vulnerable populations, including those living with HIV/AIDS and the LGBT community. In January 2007, Whitman-Walker Health received its initial designation as a federally qualified health center-lookalike entity, qualifying it for higher Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement. The health center has recertified this designation every year since 2008.
''Throughout this nearly decade-long health center transition, our patients have been first and foremost in our words and actions,'' Don Blanchon, the CEO of Whitman-Walker, said in a statement. ''With this funding, Whitman-Walker will have more resources to help our patients actively engage in their health care and improve the overall health of our community.''