State Presents Blount County $1 Million in Safety Net Funds for New Health Department Facility

Monday, June 26, 2006 | 07:00pm

Maryville, June 27, 2006

Today, on behalf of Governor Phil Bredesen, Health Commissioner Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., presented Blount County Mayor Dr. Robert Ramsey $1 million in Safety Net funds to assist with the renovation of a facility for the Blount County Health Department. Commissioner Robinson was joined by Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) East Regional Director Paul Erwin, M.D., and other Blount County and state government officials. The new Health Department location on 301 McGhee Street in Maryville, known by local residents as the former site of the Blount County library, is scheduled to be complete in January 2007.

“By committing these financial resources to Blount County, the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee General Assembly have ensured this community will now have greater access to primary care services,” said Governor Bredesen. “Safety net investments like this are important in making sure those who need basic health services have them. I’m pleased the State and Legislature were able to work together to provide this important investment in Blount County.”

Earlier this month, Governor Bredesen also signed the Cover Tennessee Act, which includes initiatives to extend health coverage to uninsured children and chronically ill adults and creates a low-cost insurance program for uninsured working Tennesseans.

In May 2005, Governor Bredesen proposed $1 million in Healthcare Safety Net funding for a new facility for the Blount County Health Department. The funding, which was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly, will assist in the addition of primary care services for local residents currently without health insurance.

“This will increase our health care safety net for folks without health insurance in Blount County,” said Blount County Mayor Robert Ramsey, who also serves as the Chairman of the County Board of Health. “Blount County is the site of the first county health department in the state, and has a very rich tradition of quality public health.”

The new health department building will allow additional space for primary care services, as well as preventive health services. Once complete, it will include 24 examination rooms and employ approximately 47 staff members. The cost for the 29,690 square-foot facility, including construction, equipment and furnishings, totals more than $2.9 million.

“Through Cover Tennessee, the State is making significant progress in addressing the issue of working uninsured individuals,” said Commissioner Robinson. “We also must continue to make Safety Net investments that increase access to primary care services for all uninsured Tennesseans.”

The Blount County Health Department, currently located at 1006 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, in Maryville, offers the following services: immunizations, well child/EPSDT screenings, WIC and nutrition services, birth and death certificates, children’s special services, breast and cervical cancer screening, family planning, HIV testing and counseling, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and communicable disease control. Basic medical services for uninsured adults are offered on a sliding fee scale based on income, with a $5 minimum fee for each visit.

“In addition to the wonderful array of services currently provided by the health department, a new facility and expanded primary care will greatly enhance our staff’s ability to serve and care for the uninsured in the local area,” said East Regional Health Director Paul Erwin, M.D.

Earlier this month, the Blount County Health Department announced that it would begin offering primary care services on July 3. While the health department is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the hours of operation for the primary care clinic will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. Once the health department moves into its new location, primary care services are expected to be provided throughout the business week. To make an appointment or for more information, individuals should call the Blount County Health Department at (865) 983-4582.

In the fall of 2005, the Department of Health began offering new or expanded adult primary care services to uninsured residents of Tennessee in an effort to strengthen the state’s health care safety net.

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