Central office

Third Street Family Health Services' central office is located at 600 W. Third St. 

MANSFIELD — Third Street Family Health Services is ready to take on a more active role in the fight against COVID-19 thanks to a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The community health center headquartered in Mansfield was one of 51 agencies across Ohio chosen to receive a portion of the $17.4 million in federal money made available thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The CARES Act allocated $25 billion for testing nationwide, with $825 million earmarked for health centers.

“This $17.4 million in grant funding is great news for health centers across Ohio because it will lead to increased testing capabilities to help track the spread and impact of the coronavirus,” said U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who supported the bill. “Continued and increased testing, especially in our underserved communities like the centers support, is essential as we begin to reopen the economy because it helps us know where the disease is and how it may be spreading.

“Ultimately, as Ohioans continue to see the number of new cases decline, they will have the confidence to begin to return to their normal lives in an incremental and safe manner. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our health care providers have the resources they need during these uncertain times.”

Third Street Family Health Services will receive $404,869.

“That particular grant is to assess testing capacity. Our plan is to first check with hospitals and with the health department to make sure we were going to have a complementary service and not duplicate a service that was already available in our community,” said Dr. Brett Toward, Third Street Family Health Services interim CEO and chief medical officer. “Internally we decided we needed point-of-care testing that had quick turn-around to be able to assess patients and potentially keep them out of the emergency room or hospital if they were sick but not sick enough to be in an acute setting like that.

“We had decided we need a point-of-care test that delivered results in minutes rather than days. When we checked with Ohio Health and Avita and the health department to make sure we were not going to duplicate a testing capacity — which we are not — we did decide to acquire a point-of-care testing system that will allow us to perform, depending on how we set it up, between 40 and 60 tests a day and be able to have those results in less than 45 minutes.”

Third Street Family Health Services is currently unable to do any in-house testing.

“All of our testing is done through the command team. We have to send (patients) to the drive-thru test site in Ontario,” Toward said. “We can do some tests through LabCorp but it’s limited because they cannot obtain specimens there. We have to obtain specimens ourselves and send them by courier to LabCorp. And we have the same PPE (personal protective equipment) problem as everybody else does.”

Expanded testing is critical as Ohio’s economy reawakens.

“As people go back to work and potentially schools reopen, the ability to test and get results quickly is really important in making decisions. Otherwise, people fall in that 10 to 14 days of waiting every time they get a stuffy nose or they get exposed to somebody who might be sick,” Toward said. “I’m not saying that that’s not the right thing to do. If you don’t have any other information that is the right thing to do, but other information starts to open up other decision-making options.

“The funding was intended to allow health centers to join the fight in a broader and more integrated approach. … With these funds, we’re able to join in and really contribute meaningfully to the process.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.