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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Federal grant will allow major expansion of Nashua health clinic for homeless

NASHUA – A federal grant announced Tuesday will allow Harbor Homes to do a massive expansion of its 3-year-old homeless heath care clinic and nearly triple its service load.

The grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Heath Resources and Services Administration is for $4.9 million, according to Carol Furlong, Harbor Homes vice president of operations.

The money will be spent on expanding the clinic, hiring more doctors and expanding the number of services the clinic offers. Furlong estimates the clinic will be able to serve 2,500 homeless and low-income patients after the expansion, compared to about 900 a year that use it now.

“This will expand our (ability) to provide services we’ve just not been able to offer to the homeless community,” she said.

The Harbor Care Health and Wellness Center opened in 2009 and offers primary medical care in two exam rooms with a primary care physician, two registered nurses, a psychiatrist, a nurse practitioner and a social worker, Furlong said.

“You can imagine, for 900 people, it gets pretty hectic,” she said.

The clinic provides a wide range of primary care services, including checkups and physicals, vaccinations, flu shots and some laboratory tests, Furlong said.

The grant money will pay for a remodeling of the 45 High St. building to add exam rooms and hopefully to hire a second physician along with doctors able to provide dental, eye and ear care, as well as a nutritionist, she said.

“Anything that the homeless population needs but can’t get because of a lack of access, a lack of resources,” Furlong said.

The need for the health clinic is immense. Harbor Homes has already exceeded its goals for patients treated through 2013, she said.

“Many more people are requesting our services than even we anticipated,” Furlong said.

Final design work needs to be competed before the project can begin.

Furlong said she hopes it will start by late fall or early winter.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).