09/24/10 — Governor announces new round of grants

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Governor announces new round of grants

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 24, 2010 1:46 PM

Standing in front of the Kitty Askins expansion that has benefited from a $288,000 Rural Health Care Initiative grant, Gov. Beverly Perdue on Thursday announced the launch of a second $6 million round of the program.

The list of projects to be funded by the second round of the grant program will be announced in early January, she said.

"(Kitty Askins) is a huge gift to the people, not just of Goldsboro and Wayne County, but the families all over the east," Gov. Perdue said. "This beautiful center offers people an opportunity to live in a family kind of setting and receive a different treatment during those final days, weeks and months of life.

"I came because I helped start the initiative that provided the funding. I really believe for all of us who live in rural North Carolina, and I do, that the most investments we can make in the infrastructure and the people in the east and west rural North Carolina is the way to bring our quality of life up. The dollars and jobs don't measure up to the love and spirit at Kitty Askins."

Investments of grant money, done wisely and with results in mind, not only help improve patient care, but North Carolina's economy as well, the governor said.

"We have over 540 people (hired) with the first round of money," she said. "There will be a day 18 months from now when we can go to another community and I hope there will be a Kitty or Kitty look-alike there, too, to brag about. It represents a real accomplishment for rural health care and what we have done -- bragging about investments like Kitty, but also to talk about the future."

When the grant program was first being developed, Gov. Perdue said she came to understand the problem she had witnessed over and over in rural eastern and western North Carolina -- access to health care and getting health care providers into rural areas.

"Both of those two things continue to be huge challenges for us," she said. "As we developed this concept that we funded in the first round of $6 million, we focused on creating health care access across the state, doing something that would lure providers to a rural area or help keep providers to stay in a rural area."

That was back in the "good old days when we were all fat and happy and the economy was roaring along" and as such it didn't have jobs as a main goal, she said.

However, the $6 million went to 37 "critical projects" across the state and resulted in 535 new jobs in areas that have been some of the hardest hit in the state, she said.

It also leveraged $107 million in private and public funds, she added.

The Rural Health Care Initiative grant and loan program is a collaborative effort between the state Rural Economic Development Center, the Golden LEAF Foundation, the USDA Rural Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Kitty Askins was the logical setting for the announcement, Rural Center President and Mount Olive native Billy Ray Hall said.

"I think it is a perfect place for people to understand what you can do with public money," Hall said. "It has helped met critical needs in health care, but also spur job creation. In other words, the money that we are allowed from state funds to help with the Kitty Askins Center is a very small amount when you consider that the State Employees Credit Union did over $700,000.

"Churches and folks in the area are raising money. You understand the value of the money helping, but also the jobs that are created in this area. Dean Lee (3HC president) and 3HC, who run this operation, have over 400 employees, so that is the perfect sort of backdrop as to why things have to come together. The other thing I like is that I work for rural North Carolina and it is great to have the governor in Goldsboro and a real rural North Carolina place."

A brochure about the program, including a pre-application form, was distributed at the event.

Eligible applicants are limited to governmental units (counties and municipalities) and non-profit groups. Private health care providers and for-profit facilities must partner with a city or county to submit a pre-application. The projects must include expansion of health services and job creation.

Nov. 15 is the deadline for submitting the pre-application.

"We will get the various funders together like the foundations and federal government ands our state funding, review and then invite a full application," Hall said.

State appropriations account for about $3 million of the $6 million, foundations another $2 million and the rest from other sources, Hall said.

Hall said a goal is to get people to think about job opportunities in health care.

"Here is a program to spur doctors and health care providers to provide that care," he said.

During the first round the 37 projects averaged receiving $125,000 to $130,000, but funding can go up to $500,000, he said.

"We hope to fund another 30 projects and create another 500 jobs," he said. "We hope it leverages $100 million in investments in the communities."

Lee indicated that 3HC will continue to seek more of the funding.

"We still have needs, not only to complete this facility -- we embarked on a $4 million campaign for this addition and we have raised over $3 million of it to date and we are looking to bring it home as they say and finish this campaign," Lee said. "I feel very honored that she would choose Kitty and 3HC to make the announcement because I feel like we do stand as a benchmark for high quality health care in North Carolina.

"For her to see that need and recognize it and choose Kitty as the place to announce the expansion and providing the funds to expand good health care in North Carolina, I think it is outstanding."

Lee said that other communities have approached 3HC wanting "a Kitty" in their own communities.

"We are working with them now, to be named, to go through the process for applying for a needs determination, get beds determined and some of those communities are already doing fundraising towards that in so they can have a Kitty as well," he said.

It remains to be determined if the local facility will play any part in operating one of those facilities, he said.

"We would hope we would have some part in the operation of it if the opportunity presented itself," he said.

Cathy Fonvielle of Mount Olive, a volunteer at Kitty Askins and a member of the capital campaign committee, spoke about her family and other families' experiences at Kitty Askins and how much the facility means to the area.

Mrs. Fonvielle said that during the 18 months that her father, C.C. Ivey Jr., was at Kitty Askins, that the staff and other families became all part of a special large family.

Kitty Askins is not about the building, she said. Rather it is about the nurses, social workers, staff and volunteers who help make the most trying days for families a time of peace, comfort and support.

She noted that volunteers in Mount Olive are working to raise $100,000 for the new Mount Olive Area Chapel at Kitty Askins. The butterfly was chosen as the symbol because it signifies the beauty of life and transformation to a higher level of life.

Kitty Askins was built in 1995 and the expansion will add 13,000 square feet to the facility, doubling its occupancy to 24 beds.

Lee said he is hopeful the expansion will eliminate the chronic waiting list at the facility.

Groundbreaking for the Kitty Askins project was held last October and construction is expected to be completed about mid-December. The first residents could be admitted by the first of February.