Heartland Community Health Center seeks $22,300 from Douglas County

A clinic that helps low-income patients get basic medical care, counseling and food is turning to Douglas County government for help becoming a community health center that would be assisted financially by the federal government.

Heartland Community Health Center, located on the lower level of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza at Sixth and New Hampshire streets, is asking Douglas County commissioners for $22,300. The money would allow the clinic to follow through with a $78,000 project to implement electronic health records and integrated practice management, a requirement for the federal program.

Commissioners will consider the request during the first phase of their Wednesday meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

The center — backed by a coalition of churches, individuals and social service agencies — would expect to increase its current load of 5,000 patients a year to as many as 12,000 during its first year as a federal community health center. The annual total could reach 20,000 or 25,000, center officials say, and include a shift of focus from “simply treating sickness, toward primary prevention and to a culture of health and wellness.”

The county last month stepped in to provide Theatre Lawrence with $100,000 — $20,000 a year over five years — to help the organization reach its fund-raising goal for a new theater complex in northwest Lawrence. Commissioners also provided Van Go Mobile Arts with $20,000 to help offset $30,000 in state budget cuts, soon after decisions for the 2011 county budget already had been finalized.

The clinic’s request adds to the number of organizations seeking financial help as they try to navigate a financial environment in which the state is cutting, donations are declining and needs are rising, said Craig Weinaug, county administrator.

“I anticipate this won’t be the last request that we get,” Weinaug said, noting that both Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and the Lawrence Community Shelter likely would seek county assistance before discussions begin for the 2012 budget.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners will consider:

• Approving an agreement with Social and Rehabilitative Services to help keep the Lawrence SRS office open. Douglas County would pay the state $225,000 — $112,500 a year, for two years — under the agreement. The city of Lawrence also would pay the same amount.

• Amend Horizon 2020 to reflect inclusion of a Southeast Area Plan.

Commissioners also plan to meet at 6:35 p.m., also at the county courthouse, to consider amending Horizon 2020 to include the Inverness Park District Plan, involving property south of Clinton Parkway.