The Gainesville Sun
By Christopher Curry
Meridian Behavioral Healthcare has received a federal grant to establish an Affordable Care Act navigator program.
Meridian will receive received $549,800 annually — and up to about $1.65 million over a three-year grant cycle — to hire navigators to help clients of the mental health and substance abuse counseling organization and members of the community at large sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
In a press release, Meridian President and Chief Executive Officer Maggie Labarta said the grant funding will continue the organization’s effort to meet more of the health care needs of those who come to Meridian for mental health or substance abuse treatment.
Meridian plans to open an on-site health clinic at its Southwest 13th Street location. The group has received state funding for operations and seeks to raise $90,000 more for equipment and renovations to open the clinic.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced nearly $10 million in annual federal taxpayer-funded grant funds for navigator programs in the state of Florida for the upcoming third year of ACA enrollment.
The organizations are slated to receive grant funding for three years.
This is the first time Meridian has received a navigator grant.
The largest grant in the state, more than $5.9 million, went to the University of South Florida’s Florida Covering Kids and Families program. USF then contracts with organizations throughout the state to run navigator programs.
In a 15 county region that includes Alachua County, the nonprofit WellFlorida Council oversees the navigator program through a contract with USF.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, which received a $1.85 million grant, also hires navigators in the Gainesville and Alachua County area.
In a press release, Enroll America, an Affordable Care Act advisory group, said research released in April showed that “individuals who received in-person application assistance were nearly 60 percent more likely to enroll compared to those who started the enrollment process on their own online.”
ACA enrollment for 2016 starts Nov. 1. During the enrollment period, navigators hold regular hours at libraries and other locations and attend special enrollment events and community events to assist people in signing up for care through the ACA.
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