The Erie County Health Department hopes to obtain hundreds of dollars in additional federal money to support its medical clinics.
The health department has a medical and dental clinic that operates as the Erie County Community Health Center.
Family Health Services of Erie County, based at Firelands Regional Medical Center, is Sandusky's other federally-funded clinic. Both operate what are known as Federally Qualified Health Center Look Alikes. FQHC Look Alikes provide medical care regardless of ability to pay.
Look Alike FQHCs receive federal funding, but they don't get as much money as full-fledged Federally Qualified Health Centers.
Both of Sandusky's health clinics have tried in the past to get promoted to full FQHC status. The Erie County Health Department has mounted a new push to win approval, and this time Erie County health commissioner Pete Schade thinks it will succeed.
Schade said the federal government has released $100 million to set up another 150 FQHCs. He said the department received a glowing report after federal health officials inspected it in December.
"Our chances are very good," he said.
Schade said full FQHC status would provide at least another $650,000 a year and would open the door for further grants.
If the department gets the upgrade, he'll hire a pediatrician and also expand its dental clinic, he said.
The health department has been trying to hire a physician for its clinic, so far without success. During Tuesday's health board meeting, board members voted to approve a request to hire a recruiting firm to step-up the search for a doctor.
Schade said about 40 different organizations have written letters to support the health department's latest bit to become a full FQHC.
Letters of support have come from the Erie County commissioners, Erie County Job and Family Services, U.S. senators Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R), U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, state Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and many others, he said.
Wilson Forney, executive director of Family Health Services of Erie County, said his organization also is seeking full FQHC status.
"We are gearing up to make that happen," he said.
Forney said Sandusky isn't likely to find out if one of its clinics made the grade until next year.
"I do know that applications aren't due until October of this year," he said.
Grants won't be awarded until sometime next year, Forney said.