Project Access to get $25,000 more from city of Wichita

Project Access, which provides medical services to low-income and uninsured residents, will receive an additional $25,000 from the city of Wichita, after it initially had its budget cut by the city and county.

The Wichita City Council unanimously approved the funds Tuesday. Since Project Access started in 1999, it has donated $170 million in medical care, $9.4 million in prescription drugs and medical equipment and served 12,575 patients. Overall, there are an estimated 65,000 uninsured residents in Sedgwick County.

“That’s all care and medication that people in our community would not have had otherwise,” council member Janet Miller said. “And if you think of it in those terms, that’s just really eye opening, so I’m glad that we are able to restore a little bit of the funding that we had cut earlier.”

City funding for Project Access comes from a City Services Block Grant, which the Kansas Housing Resources Corp., a state division, distributes. The grant dwindled over the years, which led to a $25,000 cut for Project Access in the city’s upcoming fiscal year.

In January, Sedgwick County commissioners also cut the project’s funding by $34,000 to bring its contribution down to $175,000 – the same amount the city was giving at the time.

In Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Jeff Longwell said he wanted Project Access to ask the county for more money, too.

County Commissioner Jim Howell said in a phone interview Tuesday that the reason he supported the $34,000 cut was because he didn’t feel the city had enough skin in the game.

“My challenge to the city of Wichita was to get some of their own money in this,” Howell said. “It shouldn’t just be the county funding this locally.”

Now that the city put forth its own money, Howell said he would advocate a $25,000 match, and hesaid he suspects other commissioners would support it.

Anne Nelson, executive director of the Central Plains Health Care Partnership, said the partnership submitted a supplemental funding request in mid-February for $25,000. The city recently sold a building it owned at 2220 E. 21st St., which freed up that money – $1.335 million in total.

“That just shows the public that, even though something was sold, we are making sure that we are incorporating that into some of the programs that are so desperately needed in our city,” council member Lavonta Williams said.

Nelson said she plans to approach the county for additional funding soon.

Reach Gabriella Dunn at 316-268-6400 or gdunn@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @gabriella_dunn.