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Stimulus grant to fund Lewiston CHAS clinic

Idaho delegation voted against bill

The economic stimulus package will provide $1.3 million to open a new medical clinic in Lewiston, Idaho, even though the state’s congressional delegation unanimously opposed the federal plan last month.

The seven-figure grant was awarded Monday to the Community Health Association of Spokane, based on a proposal the organization submitted in late 2007. The grant was announced by the White House and Washington state’s two Democratic senators, who supported the stimulus package, but initially had limited information on the details of how the grant would be spent.

On Tuesday, CHAS Chief Executive Officer Peg Hopkins said it will be used to operate a clinic that will open in June, in Lewiston.

“We’re very excited,” Hopkins said. “We have a lot of patients that come up from Lewiston” to the organization’s clinics in Spokane and Spokane Valley.

She estimated the clinic would have between 4,000 and 5,000 patient visits in its first year, from throughout the Lewiston-Clarkston area. About half the patients will be uninsured.

The organization, which operates five clinics in Spokane County, applied for a Health and Human Services Department grant to open the clinic in December 2007. The application scored well, but the program ran out of money before reaching the CHAS request.

When the department looked for possible stimulus projects for some $155 million for new clinics, the CHAS grant application was resurrected.

The official White House announcement talked about the clinic’s impact on Washington, saying the project would help needy people “obtain access to the comprehensive primary and preventive health care services and create 45 jobs in Washington.”

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also hailed the clinic’s funding, saying it would help Spokane-area families losing their health insurance and create jobs in Washington. On Tuesday, her spokesman Matt McAlvanah amended that statement.

“Sen. Murray is very pleased that a new CHAS clinic will provide care to families throughout Southeast Washington, one of the most under-served areas in the entire state,” he said.

The clinic will serve Washington residents who drive across the border to Lewiston and relieve the need for them to drive to Spokane clinics, Hopkins said. Murray was instrumental in getting the money, she added, and CHAS made the decision on the location.

The Idaho delegation had no official statements on the clinic. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, wasn’t aware it was going into his district, a spokesman said.

“It sounds like it’s a good thing for Lewiston and Clarkston,” spokesman John Foster said. “We’re really fortunate that some of this money is going to help Lewiston.”

Like the other members of the Idaho delegation, Minnick voted against the stimulus package, saying it borrowed too much, spent too much and was put together too quickly. It may have been better for CHAS to get the money through the normal appropriations process, Foster said, but now that the stimulus package has passed, Minnick will work to help constituents get money they need for good projects.

Contact Jim Camden at (509) 459-5461 or