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North Country Family Health Center receives $500,000 loan

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The North Country Family Health Center soon will receive its third cash infusion in just over four months, bringing the total to $800,000, to help the agency reach long-term financial stability.

A $500,000 loan under the state Health Care Restructuring Pool Loan Program has been approved to the center’s temporary operator, Samaritan Medical Center, “to assist in funding the operation of the North Country Family Health Center,” according to John D. Chirlin, spokesman for the state Dormitory Authority.

Health Center Executive Director Joey Marie Horton said in an email Friday that the $500,000 loan is “a temporary infusion of cash that will be used over the next couple of months until outstanding billing projects can be finalized.”

“The loan will be paid back in the summer,” she said. “Things continue to be going well at the health center. We are on track with the objectives identified in the plan submitted to the Department of Health in the fall. Our staff continues to be doing an excellent job in carrying out our mission. All programs are currently accepting new patients.”

The agency, at 238 Arsenal St., got its first cash infusion when Samaritan provided a loan of up to $200,000 to keep the agency open, after it nearly closed in October because of financial struggles. The Northern New York Community Foundation board of directors approved a $100,000 loan to the health center in December.

Mr. Chirlin said the most recent loan — which was requested by the health center’s board of directors — was approved by the Dormitory Authority, in conjunction with the state Department of Health. According to a Feb. 7 Department of Health budget briefing, the pool has a $19.6 million appropriation that allows the state to “assist general hospitals to restructure their operations and finances.”

Organizations apply to the state Department of Health, for aid and the Development Authority administers the funds.

At a recent Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency meeting, JCIDA Chief Executive Officer Donald C. Alexander said North Country Family Health Center attorney Keith B. Coughlin reached out to him about the $500,000 loan. To make the loan happen, Mr. Alexander said Mr. Coughlin told him, JCIDA would have to make its outstanding loan of $178,000 to the health center subservient to the state loan. Mortgage holder Community Bank has first position in the clinic’s outstanding debt. Under this move, the state loan will move to second position behind the bank and ahead of JCIDA.

JCIDA agreed to that Thursday, but with skepticism. Mr. Alexander told JCIDA board members the move is a just a legal technicality. The position of the loans provides an order in which the loans are paid off if the clinic fails and is forced to liquidate its assets.

In the midst of the health center receiving its three large cash infusions, the state Department of Health has approved its work plan to stabilize its viability.

The plan’s five key components of reducing expenses, exploring loan and grant opportunities, restructuring financial obligations and debt, improving vendor relations and reapplying for its federally qualified health center status are expected to bring the health center a positive cash balance by year’s end.

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