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Push for medical school gets grant

Local clinic providers among other recipients

The drive to establish a four-year medical school program in Spokane received a $75,000 boost from local tax dollars this year.

The money was granted to Greater Spokane Incorporated and Washington State University.

The grant was among three totaling $180,000 announced by the Health Sciences & Services Authority of Spokane County.

Another recipient is the Northeast Community Center Association, which will accept $75,000 to help expand its Spokane Falls Clinic to treat the area’s poor and under-served. The program is operated by the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and the expansion is expected to triple the number of patients seen each month to 3,300.

And Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center will accept $30,000 to help treat more patients at the Spokane HIV Clinic.

The Legislature established the health authority, also called the HSSA, in 2007 to capture 0.02 percent of local sales taxes to fund health and science-based economic development projects. So far the HSSA has collected $2.2 million.

The Seattle equivalent is the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

Last year the HSSA made grants of $675,000 to the Institute for Systems Medicine for research and to help fund the creation of a human tissue and data bank. About $225,000 more went to Project Access, which links uninsured patients with physicians and clinics.

At its May meeting, the HSSA board voted to issue $10 million in bonds. The bonds likely will be sold in the fall as part of a bond issue from Spokane County, said HSSA board chair Nancy Isserlis.

Though the board has yet to decide how to spend the money raised from bond sales, the move enables the board to make a bold investment if a promising project surfaces.

The sale of bonds also commits future tax revenues, ensuring that the Legislature can’t reverse course and withdraw the HSSA’s authority to capture sales tax revenues before the money is deposited into the state’s cash-strapped general fund, Isserlis said.

The HSSA is due to sunset in 2023 unless the Legislature votes to renew the program.

The HSSA is run by a nine-member board, three each appointed by the governor, Spokane County commissioners, and Spokane’s mayor.

The board employs Susan Ashe as acting executive director. Ashe earlier worked as chief lobbyist for the city of Spokane and as local public affairs officer for Kaiser Aluminum.


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