Friday, May 27, 2011

Two State Health Education Centers will Remain Open

By Joe Malan, Staff WriterEnid News and Eagle

ENID — Oklahoma Area Health Education Centers will not have to close its two southern offices after all.

OKAHEC has secured $360,000 in
funding for the upcoming fiscal year, said Andy Fosmire, director of Rural Health Projects and NWAHEC. Obtaining the funding means SWAHEC in Lawton and SEAHEC in Poteau will remain open.

The money OKAHEC is receiving is coming from Oklahoma State University Medical School in Tulsa. The school agreed to give OKAHEC $360,000 in exchange for getting that amount back in the upcoming fiscal year.

“We’re going to stay whole,” Fosmire said. “The centers will be able to remain open.”

Last week, OKAHEC asked the Legislature for $360,000, after previously asking for more than double that amount.

At the end of the legislative session last week, senators and other legislators went to Sen. David Myers, chairman of the senate appropriations committee, and asked to find a solution in order to fund OKAHEC, Fosmire said.

“A group of rural Republican senators got together to try to find a solution to the problem and Sen. David Myers was able to negotiate an agreement with Oklahoma State University Medical School over in Tulsa,” said Oklahoma Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid.

Anderson said the Legislature agreed to find additional funding to fill the hole for OSU Medical School by Jan. 1, 2012, since the funds are coming out of its operating budget.

“We first worked on (a deal with) the Department of Health but they would not agree to assist (OKAHEC),” Anderson said.

As a result of getting the $360,000, OKAHEC was able to reach its federal match, which means the federal government will match the state on an approximate 2:1 ratio.

“Probably the biggest thing is at this point we’ll be able to maintain the network statewide in this coming year,” Fosmire said. “In the Legislature, the representatives that we talked to were very pleased we were able to work out this arrangement toward when the session was over.”

Anderson also was pleased OKAHEC was able to secure funding.

“The thought of losing this program was something we did not want to see happen,” he said. “We’re thrilled 
we were able to keep the program going.”

Article Courtesy of the Enid News

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