The Helen Bentley Family Health Center, which has served low-income patients in Coconut Grove for more than 40 years, will lose federal funding next year.
That funding represents about 17 percent of the nonprofit center’s operating budget. The center, at 3090 SW 37th Ave. in the West Grove, will continue to provide services but laid-off several support staff due to the reduction.
The center has provided primary healthcare services to uninsured and low-income residents on an ability-to-pay basis since opening its doors in 1971 as the Coconut Grove Family Health Center in Virrick Park.
Dr. Caleb Davis, the center’s president, said that the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) decided in September to pull the funds because of the center’s failure to comply with certain financial management practices. Davis emphasized that HRSA’s decision was not based on any inadequacies in patient care nor any financial misdealing.
Audits conducted by the federal health agency for 2009, 2010 and 2011 found failures to separate accounting and cashier functions and bookkeeping practices that were inconsistent with federal guidelines.
“We had a new finance director who came in 2009 and had to reorganize our office,” Davis said, “We had a lot of new people who didn’t know what the system was. Even though they had backgrounds in financial management, they were not focused on fixing things in the audits. It’s not that people were consciously not responding to the audit findings. It was just human error.”
Upon being informed of the news, Jihad Rashid, president of the Coconut Grove Collaborative, a local community development organization, said he was dismayed by the federal health agency’s decision.
“They’re hurting us more than they’re hurting Helen Bentley,” Rashid said, “They should reconsider for the sake of the community. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
The Bentley center will still be able to receive payments under federal insurance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Out of its operating budget of over $8 million, it will lose $1.8 million in federal funds.
Davis said the center would continue its sliding fee scale.