Grants Could Help Non-Profit Healthcare Recover

Millions of dollars in federal grant money could be a shot in the arm for healthcare facilities trying to rebuild what Katrina destroyed. The "Social Services Block Grant" is open to private non-profit agencies who offer health, mental health, childcare and other like services.

On Wednesday, the Mississippi Department of Human Services held a meeting to decide how to distribute $128 million in grants.

The staff at Biloxi's Coastal Family Health Center dreams of the day they'll leave behind trailers for a new building on the corner of Division and Main. First, the clinic that mainly serves the poor and uninsured must come up with millions.

"Well, I'm about $2 million short. That's about it, but we're trying to get there," Executive Director Joe Dawsey said.

Several private non-profit groups sat in on a meeting about how health care agencies can apply for grant money.

Lora Mederas of the Hancock County Human Resource Agency is concerned about the shortage of daycare. In northern Hancock County, there is only one place working parents can take their children.

"That's only a program that serves children through the schools and only during the school year," said Mederas. "At the end of the school year there will be absolutely no child care available. So what we were hoping to use the social service block grant funds for were to build a new facility in the northern part of the county."

DHS officials say they want grants to help the rebuilding process.

Director Don Taylor said, "In this instance, we can spend it on some bricks and mortar. That's important to us, once people have applied through the regular channels insurance, SBA, FEMA and so forth."

Taylor says DHS wants to help healthcare providers get back to their pre-Katrina status. Coastal Family Health Center says that's what they're trying to do.

"I think this is probably our last chance to get some help from the government to rebuild Coastal Family Health Center," said Dawsey.

The Department of Human Services says agencies who receive the grants will be monitored to make sure the money is used the way it was intended.