Earlier this week, legislators announced nearly three-quarters of a million dollars would be granted to Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center, part of a $1.3 million investment from the American Rescue Plan.
SAWYER, Mich. — Earlier this year, with Bay Mills Indian Community, Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center (UGL) was granted $4.9 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan. Bay Mills received approx. $1.1 million, and UGL received $3.8 million.
The health centers successfully used the funds for staffing, personal protective equipment, screening, testing, and other battles against the pandemic. Dr. Bob Lorinser believes these to be successful use of federal funds and commends the appropriate allocation of resources.
This week, it was announced $770,000 from the American Rescue Plan will be granted to UGL to fund a major renovation on the Sawyer Family Health Center.
"UGL provides a fundamental service to our communities the for-profit healthcare system leaves behind," said Lorinser. "These clinics admirably serve any patient, regardless of their ability to pay and provide low-income citizens critical healthcare. UGL highlights the successes of providing universal care."
UGL was established in 2009 and operates 12 clinics in 10 locations serving Houghton, Iron, Marquette, Menominee, and Ontonagon Counties. Services include primary care, oral health care, behavioral health services, substance use counseling, specialty care/services, education, and comprehensive outreach.
"I fundamentally believe in universal healthcare," said Dr. Lorinser. "All citizens deserve access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. No one should suffer the consequences of not being able to afford access to medical care."
As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), UGL can provide high-quality health care to underserved areas. Its services work on a sliding fee for uninsured patients and can accommodate or offer referrals to everyone regardless of income.
"We need more healthcare centers like UGL," said Dr. Lorinser. "Patients on Medicaid and Medicare deserve the same high-quality medical services as anyone else. This is an appropriate use of federal funds and a positive asset to our area. When our people are healthier, their quality of life is improved. When medical care is affordable, the relief of financial burdens can be felt positively in improved lifestyles. When all citizens in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are healthier, we all thrive.
"Some of UGL's most admirable services are behavior/mental health, women's health, addiction services, and services for seniors," said Dr. Lorinser. "But, they also deserve serious recognition for their response to the pandemic and vaccine administration. Their providers are on the front lines in mitigating the spread of COVID-19."
UGL serves the community regardless of language, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, physical and mental capacity, age, religion, housing status, and ability to pay.
"Beyond the physical needs of our community, that's medicine for the soul," said Dr. Lorinser.
Similarly, early in his career, Dr. Bob recognized some serious problems in for-profit healthcare and worked where others wouldn't. Like UGL, many of his patients were low-income Medicaid and Medicare recipients. He made housecalls. He administered free flu shots for youth sports teams. He served patients struggling with behavioral and mental health, the elderly, expecting mothers, new families, people with physical and cognitive disabilities, Indigenous communities, active and retired service members, and retired Veterans.
On-call or not, it was not uncommon for people in his care to page Dr. Bob late at night or early in the morning with health concerns. If serious, he would consult many patients right in his living room before recommending emergency care or facilitating hospitalization.
"My goals as a legislator in Congress will be to improve our medical insurance structure and expand healthcare coverage," said Dr. Lorinser. "Universal access to quality medicine advances society. It improves our nation. UGL's model proves it. It's organizations like this that showcase what the medical profession is all about — genuine care."