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President Obama mentions local Avis Goodwin health center in awarding grant

SOMERSWORTH - In announcing more than $500 million in stimulus funds that were awarded to community health centers across the country, President Obama on Wednesday singled out Avis Goodwin Community Health Center, which received $5 million that will pay for most of its new headquarters on Route 108.

Arguing the money is sorely needed to upgrade facilities and provide low-income Americans with access to health care following a crippling recession, Obama pointed to Avis Goodwin, which serves 8,000 underinsured and uninsured patients in Strafford County.

"We're investing in places like Avis Goodwin Community Health Center in Dover, New Hampshire, that's become so overcrowded ... the doctors are using bathrooms and closets as offices," he said.

The $500 million was awarded to 85 community health centers in more that 30 states and Puerto Rico. Lamprey Health Care was awarded $2.2 million for a new facility in Nashua.

Avis Goodwin Executive Director Janet Atkins, who was at the White House for Obama's speech, credited U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-Madbury, who helped secure the $5 million award. The money will pay for the majority of the Route 108 project's $6.4 million price tag.

Avis Goodwin, a nonprofit agency, currently operates out of four locations in Dover and Rochester. It would close those buildings and create headquarter operations at the new facility, which is planned as two stories and 29,000 square feet - 15 percent more space than the four current locations.

The new space would allow Avis to serve an additional 3,000 patients, save $200,000 in annual operating expenses, and create seven full-time jobs.

Construction on the new facility is scheduled to begin next spring and be completed by March 2011. The new location, located along a heavily used COAST bus line, will be more accessible to patients in the Tri-City area and beyond, Atkins has said. It will also eliminate waiting lists that have formed since patient applications swelled following the recession.

Across the state, more than 107,000 underinsured or uninsured people are served by community health centers with 31 sites in nine of the Granite State's 10 counties, according to Shaheen's office. Those centers also employ more than 800 people and contribute $61 million into their local economies, her office added.

In a statement, Shaheen said: "This funding, and today's recognition at the White House, affirms that Avis Goodwin, Lamprey Health Care and all community health centers are essential to giving families the care they need, when they need it. We must continue to fund health care services that provide quality, affordable care, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to pass a health care bill will make care more affordable and accessible to all Americans."