The Legislature is staring at a $3.2 billion deficit, but state Sen. Mike Fasano has tentatively lined up $750,000 for a health care clinic in the regional hurricane shelter that bears his name.
Fasano, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, has given preliminary approval to spend about $2 million for hurricane shelters and cultural facilities in several districts. That includes $750,000 for the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter in Hudson.
It's still early in the budget process, however, and the funding requests must ultimately survive the governor's veto pen.
"There are member projects every year. You know that," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. "I don't have any problem telling somebody that I wanted to fund a community health facility that will help the uninsured and the underinsured."
Construction finished last year on the $7.5-million shelter on Denton Avenue, which is designed to house up to 1,000 evacuees from Pasco and Hernando counties in the event of a hurricane. The 37,000-square-foot facility will also house a clinic by Premier Community HealthCare Group to provide year-round health care to the indigent.
The $750,000 line item surfaced for the first time Wednesday as "Regional Hurricane Shelter, Pasco County Community Health Center."
"The dollars are to be used to help start up the Premier clinic," Fasano said.
Premier lost out on a federal grant last year to get the clinic up and running.
"It was quite disappointing to a lot of us," Fasano said.
Premier needs at least $350,000 for equipment and other start-up costs, as well as money to operate the facility. The clinic hopes to get some of the medical equipment donated by a facility for the developmentally disabled that is closing in Ocala, Fasano said.
The $750,000 from the state would get Premier going for a year to 18 months, Fasano said. The clinic would then apply for federal grants to continue operating.
Fasano said the clinic would be an important everyday resource and a vital amenity in an emergency.
"God forbid, if we ever have a major hurricane, there will be a clinic to serve people there as well," Fasano said.
Fasano said a hearing today would provide a full public airing for other member projects in the districts of Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, and Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville.