A nonprofit foundation is seeking to set up a health care clinic in Barstow and other cities in the High Desert in order to treat residents who are on Medi-Cal or are without health insurance.

Borrego Community Health Foundation currently operates eight health care clinics in San Diego and Riverside counties and is seeking to open up four more clinics within Barstow, Needles, Apple Valley and Hesperia, said Fred Deharo, director of corporate development for the foundation. The clinics would allow patients without health insurance to pay $10 for a visit, depending on their income and the size of their family. The clinic would offer family and internal medicine as well as prenatal and pediatric care.

The foundation is part of the Federally Qualified Health Care Center program, in which the federal government helps provide funding for low-income families to receive preventative health care.

San Bernardino County recently scored poorly on a study that looked at the amount of preventable hospitalizations within the state. Deharo hopes that a clinic within Barstow could help prevent some patients from going to the emergency room to seek care.

"Oftentimes, the uninsured wind up getting their primary care in the emergency room," said Deharo. "We want to minimize the burden on the hospitals."

The foundation currently treats more than 100,000 people in the eight clinics within Riverside and San Diego counties in communities such as Borrego Springs, Escondido and Desert Hot Springs, said Deharo. If a clinic is built within the city, it could help up to 15,000 patients per year that live in the Barstow area.

The foundation applied for a federal New Access Point grant in December that would allow them to provide primary health care to High Desert communities, said Deharo. The grant will provide funding for one or more of the sites, but the maximum that the foundation could receive is $600,000 a year. The clinics are estimated to have an annual budget of $6 to 8 million per site. Much of the current funding comes from Medi-Cal and grants, according to a budget document provided by Deharo.

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(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com