Freeport McMoRan Foundation provides $80,000 grant for new training center

November 11, 2023
Herald Review

Chiricahua Community Health Centers Inc. continues to serve the communities of Cochise County, and thanks to an $80,000 grant from the Freeport McMoRan Foundation, Copper Queen branch, a training center to serve countywide needs will open next year.

The official name is Freeport McMoRan Training Room and it is in the same historic building as the pharmacy on Arizona Street.

On Thursday, officials from CCHI and its board members and Freeport and Cochise County officials gathered to celebrate the prospects this new venture will bring.

Dennis Walto, chief external affairs officer, explained the new educational center will have a state of the art training room for staff and other agencies in the county.

Currently, CCHCI has no place for training, but by next year the center will be open for business with the latest state of art technology in an unused 2,300-square-foot space in the pharmacy building.

Some work has already begun, but there is still a lot left to do in the 1905 brick building. Walls need to be repaired, and a new ceiling and floor installed along with wiring for the electronics and power outlets.

CCHCI bought the old movie theater and began renovations to turn a portion of it into a 1,200-square-foot pharmacy to serve its patients. But that left the rest of the building unusable, briefly. It was not long before the plan was hatched to develop it into a much needed training room. The rest of the building will be transformed into a modern, multiuse training and meeting space, said Walto. The architectural and engineering plans are “shelf ready” and new construction is underway.

The renovation plan was supported by the Federal Health Resources Services Organization, which is dedicated to providing equitable health care for the nation’s highest–need communities.

With the money from Freeport, CCHCI plans to install state of the art electronic technology.

Walto said they plan to open the center sometime late next year. The room will serve not only CCHCI, though. It will be available to the Copper Queen Hospital as well as any local organizations that need training or meeting space.

Walto said, “This is the perfect private–public partnership. The new center will prepare locally employed health care workers and address the health care challenges to benefit all communities and populations of Cochise County. It will be a community asset. This donation underscores Freeport-McMoRan’s commitment to the well–being of our community.”

CCHCI hosted a meeting with Freeport, told the company what it needed and “they have been incredibly supportive,” Walto said.

Carrie Gustavson, president of the board, said, “I can tell you how proud we are of all the things we do. We have sites all over the county. We go out to the schools, out to the migrant workers. We now have a mobile mammogram unit that can go out and help those people who are stuck at home.”

She said CCHCI employs about 500 people and the board wants to be able to help staff “rise in the ranks.” A person can start at a lower skilled job and work up the ladder into a managerial position.

“And we do through health educational programs,” Gustavson said. “I think the training center is going to be a big player in this.”

Freeport Manager of Social Performance Rita Lloyd Mills said, “This has been a long term relationship with Chiricahua. Why? Because you are helping improve our community. What brings joy to our heart is that this is a collaborative effort. It will serve people from Douglas, Sierra Vista, wherever. So, we see this as a very important project and we are proud to be a part of this.”

Robert Quintanar, manager of Freeport’s Bisbee location, said, “The thing that helped us commit to helping you was because of the reach you have in Cochise County.” CCHCI was selected from a number of good applications.

CCHCI has expanded health care options in Sierra Vista, Benson, Douglas, Willcox and Elfrida — the original health clinic. It also provides health checks for the homeless at the Tin Town Shelter and dental care with a fleet of eight mobile medical and mobile dental units. It operates 15 fixed–site medical, dental, behavioral health and pharmacy clinics.

Barbara Lang, new Cochise County director of Cochise Health and Social Services, said, “I’m delighted to be a part of this process. I’m really glad you have accessibility to all parts of the county.”

CCHCI has 31,133 patients, of which 23% have no health insurance. They are all treated the same way and receive the same care in spite of the 6,200 square miles of mostly rural Cochise County. As such, CCHCI tailored its care for the diverse population, which includes migrant farm workers, retired copper miners, veterans, single parents and their children, recent immigrants, law enforcement and residents of public housing.

It is the only Federally Qualified Health Center in the county.

In June 2022, CCHCI was one of the winners of the “Most Innovative Mobile Program” in the country sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Lowenstein Family Foundation, which came with a $10,000 award.

The Clinton Foundation honored CCHCI earlier this year for its commitment to expand services in addiction treatment earlier this year.

Thanks to U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, CCHCI received a $3 million federal award to be distributed over a three–year period from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Communities Opioid Response Program for medication assisted treatment access. In addition, CCHCI received a $300,000 award from HHS for Overdose Response.

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