by Kate Evans
Mountaineer Community Health Center in Paw Paw has received a $642,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Mountaineer Community Health Center CEO Jason Whipkey said that the funding was through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and will provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
Instead of COVID services being provided at large clinics in Berkeley Springs, they will be transitioned to a more provider-based system. Whipkey said that the grant is multi-year funding and will continue into 2023.
The grant also allows Mountaineer to increase services to allow them to serve additional underserved areas, Whipkey said. The health center will evaluate nearby areas to see where an additional clinic site could be set up. They’re looking at both Morgan County and neighboring counties for a possible location.
Whipkey said it was too early in the process to say where the second clinic site could be located.
2020 CARES Act funding
Mountaineer Community Health Center used last year’s Cares Act funding of $540,815 for COVID-19 community testing and vaccinations at the beginning of the year, Whipkey said.
The center also purchased a handicapped-accessible van used for clinical programs, people with chronic conditions and reduced travel during the pandemic.
The money purchased an air purification system which increased their capacity for tele-health, Whipkey said. The funding also helped sustain the clinic during the pandemic. They haven’t spent the full amount of funding yet, he said.
Whipkey said Mountaineer clinic staff have given around 300 COVID-19 vaccines at Mountaineer Community Health Center so far. They received 100 vaccine doses in January and got additional doses around two weeks ago.
The bulk of the COVID-19 vaccines have been with Berkeley Springs providers. Whipkey said Mountaineer Community Health Center staff assisted at county Health Department vaccination clinics.
Those receiving COVID-19 vaccines at their health center have mostly been older folks, he said.
COVID-19 testing is open to all ages now. Anyone 16 years of age or older can get a vaccine. People can call the Mountaineer clinic to be placed on the vaccine list, Whipkey stressed.
There have been multiple COVID-19 cases in Paw Paw even as recently as last week, Whipkey said on Friday.
Last week there were five positive test results. Clinic staff work with the Morgan County Health Department on contact tracing when there are positive cases.
Whipkey estimated that they’ve conducted around 1,150 coronavirus tests and identified approximately 95 positive COVID-19 cases.
“We have continuously offered testing as part of our normal clinical care and also had weekly free, public coronavirus testing from October through March,”
The clinic saw about 1,100 unique patients in 2020, which is a lot of patients given the population of the area.
Whipkey encouraged everyone to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
“The vaccines are safe and incredibly effective,” he noted.
COVID-19 vaccines “are the best way to get the pandemic behind us and return to some semblance of normalcy,” Whipkey advised.
Mountaineer Community Health Center can be reached at 304-947-5500.