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Hospital Authority to offer $200K in grants this year
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The Hospital Authority of Rockdale County is only a few months away from finalizing its grant process and making more than $200,000 in annual grant money available to area health non-profits and projects.

Two types of grants would be offered in the initial round: community small grants that could be made year-round with a $5,000 maximum per individual request with a ceiling of $50,000 to a group per year, and larger program grants that could be applied for and given in a longer time period.

The Community Small Grants program would be aimed at helping groups get matching money from other foundations and funding sources.

The Authority also agreed to narrow down its focus for its initial grant cycle to its first tier areas of need: primary care access/health clinics, health screenings and prevention, youth health and wellness. Other areas for later cycles include active senior programs and wellness, health professional education and behavioral health.

In a presentation Tuesday night summing up the Authority's decisions and progress so far, David Whalen, a consultant with Stroudwater Associates, which was hired to help guide the setup and to survey the community's health needs, said the Authority would have about $328,000 of interest a year coming in from its current investments. If the Authority wanted to stay within a 20 percent overhead figure, that would give them about $65,000 for running the program, not including rent.
"We're going for simple and lean," said Whalen.

The board members decided not to hire an executive director at this time, opting instead to continue with volunteer efforts from the board.

"This is going to put the burden on you all if you decide to go this way. Are you willing to carry the load initially?" asked Whalen, to which the board members present nodded.

Authority Board chairman Ethel Boyle later said they wanted to let the program grow into it rather than to hire an executive director right away. "I think right now the board's trying to take cautious steps forward and do things in a responsible manner," she said. "It's such a big responsibility but it's also a wonderful opportunity."

The Authority has about $30 million in restricted funds and $3.1 million in unrestricted funds. It sold Rockdale Medical Hospital to private healthcare company LifePoint in early 2009 for $80 million, with $30 million in new capitol over the next six years. The restricted funds are reserved for any remaining liabilities and in case RMC should ever go back up for sale again and the Authority wanted to exercise its right of first purchase. The unrestricted funds, and any accruing interest, can be used to run and fund a grants program for community health.

The board also decided to have three committees in the program: finance committee, grants committee, with a subcommittee to initially examine grant applications, and an audit committee to follow up on grants given and check to see that the money was being used as intended.

There would also be a grants committee member assigned as a liaison to each large grant application to perform the initial interview and inspection and to guide the applicant through the process.

Authority members also agreed to look at finding someone for public relations, possibly on a volunteer or part time basis, and to look at finding an independent financial advisor. The board is still revising its application forms and scorecard.

The Authority's next meeting is March 23 at 5:30 p.m. the Rockdale Medical Center north entrance dining room and is open to the public.