PITTSBURG — The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is working on two different million-dollar projects to better serve the area.

CHC/SEK announced a $1 million federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this week to expand services at the Parsons location. Later in the day on Tuesday, the health center was approved for a $100,000 loan from City of Pittsburg’s Revolving Loan Fund to help expand an outpatient, substance abuse program.

“Just turn on the news,” said CHC/SEK CEO Krista Postai. “More people are dying now from prescription drugs than car wrecks.”

The substance abuse program will be at least a $1 million startup, she said, and will add eight medical positions – mainly counselors, a clinical coordinator and nurse. Current doctors at the center, she said, are working to be certified in prescribing drugs for withdrawals.

The center received a $650,000 grant over two years ($325,000 a year) in March towards the startup costs. The grant is ongoing if the center can show a need is being addressed.

CHC/SEK made an offer of $737,000 on the 12,000 square-foot TFI Family Services building across the street. The offer was accepted and if the deal closes, the center will relocate clerical staff to the building and expand the current addiction services in the behavioral center.

Pittsburg’s interest free, a $100,000 loan would go towards improvements and infrastructure for the TFI Family Services building. The loan’s term is three years.

In 2007, the city approved a $200,000 loan to the center for construction, of which, $121,233 was repaid and $78,767 was forgiven.

Again in 2013, the city gave a $460,517 loan for an expansion project. This loan has all been forgiven so far and will continue to be if the center meets a certain threshold, according to Pittsburg’s Economic Development Director Blake Benson.

“We felt like with this particular project we want to balance the repaid and not repaid because we want to make sure that the fund stays solvent,” Benson said. “And that there are funds in there for the next project.”

Benson said part of the approval was based upon information that each of the eight jobs created would pay in the $50,000 range annually.

Postai said the center already has a couple substance abuse counselors. The five-fold expansion in medical staff is to meet a growing need “underserved” in the area.

Southeast Kansas had the highest drug poisoning rate in the state with 13.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2013, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The state average was 10.6 per 100,000 the same year.

Postai said work has already begun to hire staff for the substance abuse expansion. She said work will be ongoing and expected full implementation to take two years.

“We hope to see this as a catalyst across the region for change,” Postai said.

The CEO believes addiction breaks any “stereotypes” of low income people and the substance abuse program will be solvent.

“We don’t start something we can’t finish,” she said.

Center gets $1 million grant for Parsons location

In Parsons, the $1 million grant will allow the center put up walls and expand services in an open, 9,375 square foot structure at 2100 Commerce Drive.

“It will make it a healthcare home,” Postai said. “Right now, it is kind of a healthcare garage.”

The location has been leased from the Labette Health since August 2015.

Postai said the grant will expand exam rooms from three to eight or nine along with adding permanent dental operatories, counseling offices and space for support staff.

The grant will also add three to four medical professionals (doctors or nurse practitioners), a dentist and one or two dental hygienist, Postai said.

There is currently one medical professional with additional help from another location once a week. Dental care is done by an outside group. Postai said the grant will allow the Parsons location to be a one-stop medical center.

Construction is slated for this summer with work to be completed by year’s end.

CHC/SEK serves more than 40,000 patients annually through 10 sites in five Southeast Kansas counties, according to a press release.

— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at mstavola@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.