A plan to cut funding to clinics that serve underprivileged patients could reportedly force six Houston facilities to close.
Central Care Integrated Services, a company operating clinics in areas, such as Acres Homes, Sunnysid, and Third Ward, recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to maintain its operations at six Houston locations.
According to its website, the Central Care clinics offer medical, dental and behavioral treatment to more than 10,000 Houstonians, many of whom cannot afford health insurance.
The clinics reportedly receive their funding through grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a federal agency under the HHS.
If the clinics do not receive their grants, they could be forced to close and thousands of residents in Houston’s poorest neighborhoods could lose access to vital health care services.
According to court documents, HRSA suspended Central Care’s access to health care professionals from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) in 2015 until the clinics met some specific requirements.
After Central Care met the conditions, HRSA still reportedly took nearly a year to grant Central Care access to essential health care workers.
An affidavit filed by Central Care CEO LaToya Darden detailed the following:
“As of result of this failure by HRSA, Central Care was unable to recruit doctors from the NHSC from July 2016 to May 2017 despite having satisfied the conditions for eligibility.”
The suit claims the loss of access to health care professionals caused the clinics’ rating to decline, which cost them the grants they need to continue operating.
Central Care obtained a temporary restraining order in December, which administration said allowed them to continue operating until January 1.
The clinic filed an amended lawsuit to continue the funding until a federal court hearing this week.
While patients receive free or low-cost health care at Central Care, health care professionals who enlist in the NHSC can reportedly receive forgiveness on their student loan debt for working at clinics that cater to underserved areas.