GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Cherry Health has received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand telehealth services.
The clinic, which has 20 locations and serves patients regardless of their ability to pay, will use the funding to improve its online patient portal, supply remote glucose monitors to patients with diabetes, and provide laptops or tablet computers (as well as internet access) to patients with severe mental illness, said Bill Joure, chief operating officer at Cherry Health.
“I think it’s somewhat of a recognition that telehealth is a viable alternative to in-person medicine in a lot of cases,” Joure said. “Telehealth is here to stay, and really the focus of this is on helping us improve the way that we deliver healthcare via telehealth.”
Created in 1988, Cherry Health is a nonprofit, Federally Qualified Health Center. Its services include primary care, women’s health, pediatrics, dental, vision, behavioral health and five school-based health programs. It has more than 20 locations, the majority of which are in Kent County, and it served more than 55,000 patients last year.
Federally Qualified Health Centers receive funds from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to provide care in underserved areas. Federally Qualified Health Centers must provide care on a sliding fee scale based on a patient’s ability to pay, and they must operate under a governing board that includes patients, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Like other healthcare providers, Cherry Health expanded its telehealth services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President and CEO Tasha Blackmon said in a news release.
“In many ways, this funding is level-setting, in that it allows us to make some much-needed investments in technology that will remove barriers to comprehensive, quality healthcare for the patients we serve,” she said.
Cherry Health has completed over 200,000 medical and behavioral health telehealth visits since the pandemic began in March 2020. Nearly a quarter of Cherry Health’s visits last year were telehealth visits, officials said.
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