$11.6 million coming to SB County community health centers to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines

Apr 5, 2021

Three Central Coast-based health centers are expecting to receive more than $11 million in federal funding this month.

The money will be distributed from American Rescue Plan funds to expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment, and deliver preventive and primary health care services to vulnerable populations.

$11.6 million is being distributed locally to American Indian Health and Services, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

This is part of a $6 billion investment President Joe Biden announced he would take from the American Rescue Plan to fund nearly 1,400 community health centers across the United States.

Local U.S. Congressional Representative Salud Carbajal supports the American Rescue Plan. He said this funding addresses equity issues in the underserved communities that these health centers support.

“This allows us to have that full vaccination strategy of making sure no one -- no one -- is left behind,” Carbajal said.

Dana Gamble is the interim deputy director for the Primary Care and Family Health Division of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

He said this funding will be distributed over the next two years across their five health care centers in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, as well as local homeless shelter clinics.

Gamble said the funding is helpful in facilitating their clinics but also in bringing the vaccine to areas like homeless encampments, low-income senior housing complexes, homebound people and the agricultural community.

“We’re able to do so much more just to ensure that everybody who needs to get the vaccine can get it,” Gamble said. “We’re trying to eliminate all the traditional barriers of poverty, location, language, mental health status.”

The funding can also be used for expanding operational capacity, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units.

Gamble said the funding is not only for expanding services. It can also be used to pay retroactively for services already in effect.