May 09, 2012GORHAM — The Coös County Family Health Services (CCFHS) was awarded a $400,000 competitive federal grant on May 1 that will allow it to renovate its Gorham medical office building.
"This award demonstrates the board of directors' continuing commitment to maintaining services in the town of Gorham," said CCFHS executive director Adele Woods in a Wednesday morning telephone interview. "We're very pleased that CCFHS received the grant for which we applied."
CCFHS is in the process of buying the Main Street clinic facility, built in the early 70s, from Mountain Health Services, which is under the umbrella of the Androscoggin Valley Hospital (AVH). The real estate closing date is planned for mid-May. With the help of Rural Development funds, CCFHS is taking out a 30-year mortgage that will allow it to purchase the building at its appraised valuation.
Although the facility was upgraded in the 90s, Woods explained that a number of energy saving upgrades and significant maintenance projects are needed, all of which will be covered under the grant. These include a new roof, heating and ventilation upgrades, installation of energy-saving doors and windows, insulation, and a generator, for times when there is an electric power interruption. Now that health records are maintained electronically, backup electricity-generating capability is an essential for health care facilities, Woods said.
The CCFHS board dropped an earlier plan that called for building a new $20-million facility in a single location. Grant monies turned out not to be available, Woods said.
U. S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen wrote a letter of strong support for CCFHS' application for a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) Immediate Facility Improvement Grant Program.
"CCFHS has made a significant commitment to provide high quality, innovative and comprehensive primary care services for the citizens and visitors of the Androscoggin Valley since 1993, when it was recognized as a full-service Community Health Center," Shaheen said. "CCFHS is the only medical facility in the town of Gorham, and its service area has been federally designated as a Medically Underserved Population and both a Medical and Dental Health Professional Shortage area."
Despite some earlier improvements, Shaheen noted that the Gorham medical building is "energy-inefficient, has outdated and inadequate lighting, and its HVAC system provides uneven heating and cooling that causes ice buildup and water leakage in the winter months. These facility conditions increase the difficulty of examining patients and providing them with a comfortable atmosphere. The Gorham site is also difficult to access for patients with impaired mobility, a common issue given that the building houses the only podiatrist in the Androscoggin Valley.
"Grant funding would allow CCFHS to install new heating ventilation systems, improve the building's insulation and address mold buildup. These improvements would not only extend the life of the facility but also produce significant energy savings for CCFHS."
The Indian Stream Health Center in Colebrook was awarded $501,923 on May 1 under another similar grant program, this one designed for projects that cost over $500,000.