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Granny’s Attic looks to fund community health projects

After more than 35 years serving the island, Granny’s Attic is in the midst of a sea change in how it bestows its funds, ending its monthly subsidies and adopting a grant-based approach that will provide financial support for a variety of health-related programs.

Granny’s Attic first opened in 1975 to support the work of the fledgling clinic that is now the Vashon Health Center and has grown to the thriving thrift store many islanders shop at today. Business is booming to such an extent that in recent years Granny’s has provided $200,000 annually for health care on the island, according to Janet Kime, the president of the Granny’s Attic board of directors. In fact, in March Granny’s surpassed the $4 million mark for funds it has given away.

The lion’s share of the money — $3.5 million — has gone to the Vashon Health Center and Highline Medical Center, which now owns the clinic, Kime said.

After Highline stepped in to help the financially ailing clinic more than a decade ago, Kime said, Granny’s initially had a contract saying it would provide funds for specific Vashon needs, such as the 24-hour call service. But for many years now, she added, Granny’s monthly check has gone to Highline’s operating fund, and many Granny’s Attic members, as well as Granny’s manager Tim Johnson, have wanted to better see and track where the money is going. Last week, Granny’s Attic members voted to adopt the grant approach that will allow for funding of more community-oriented projects.

“It’s important for us to be transparent and have people know where their money ends up,” he said in a recent interview.

For several years, Granny’s has provided $9,000 each month to Highline, totaling $108,000 per year. On top of that, Granny’s has given funds for a remodeling, repairs and equipment, Kime said, bringing the annual total from Granny’s to Highline to more than $150,000 annually.

Kime and Johnson stress that Granny’s will continue to provide funds for the health center, but they will do so in a different way — and a way that people can readily see and understand.

“We want people to be able to walk in the door and know where their money goes,” Johnson said.

Kime and Johnson added that they are not making this change because of any political or religious reasons involving The Franciscan System’s recent acquisition of Highline, but for pragmatic and economic reasons.

“This had nothing to do with their policy,” Johnson said. “It had to do with their bank book. The Franciscans are well financed.”

Because of the Franciscan’s healthier financial picture, it will not need Granny’s money in the same way that Highline had grown to rely on it, Johnson said, and the recent merger between the two health systems served as a catalyst for the long-desired changes.

For many years, the only services on the island Granny’s supported were at the health center. In 2007, however, the board changed its bylaws and since then has provided some support to other organizations, such as Vashon Community Care, dental van services and Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS).

Success in this area fueled Granny’s members’ desire to do more of the same, Kime noted, so at last week’s membership meeting, the members voted to do just that.

In addition to the significant change in funding policy, the members voted to provide $30,000 to Vashon Community Care. This amount is the “Medicaid gap” for one resident — the difference between what the center receives from the government for the cost of care compared to the actual cost of that care, Kime said.

“We’re so fortunate to have that resource,” she said of VCC. “Granny’s is happy to support it.”

Granny’s membership also voted to double the funds it provides to a popular medical voucher program it began last year in partnership with the clinic and VYFS. Through this program, uninsured and underinsured Vashon residents who qualify can receive vouchers for care at the Vashon Health Center. Previously, Granny’s had provided $20,000 to the program for the year, and effective June 1, Granny’s will provide $40,000 to serve more people and expand the scope of the program, Kime said.

Because the program was new and funds were limited, program participants had been limited to $250 in care per year and were to be seen for preventive health needs. Because that proved insufficient, the yearly per-person cap will now be $1,000, and people seeking care for preventive needs as well as acute and chronic conditions will have access to the vouchers. The vouchers now also provide a pharmacy benefit for prescriptions from the Vashon Pharmacy.

Kime and Johnson both expressed appreciation of this program, which was well used from the start.

“This is a good example of how we want to move forward with the clinic,” Kime said. “Tim and I both think it is the best thing we do.”

Deb Rieschl, who administers the voucher program at VYFS, voiced her appreciation of Granny’s increased contribution.

“The $1,000 will enable (people) to get care they deserve and need,” she said. “I have already called several people that had been seen and said they could go back.”

Looking ahead with this new policy, Kime said Granny’s will stop providing the monthly subsidy to the Franciscan system in June, the end of the Franciscan’s fiscal year.

Scott Thompson, a spokesman for the Franciscans, said administrators there are pleased with the changes and noted that Franciscans understand Granny’s has been essential to ongoing care at the clinic.

“We want to work with Granny’s Attic in a way that is comfortable and continues to provide for the needs of the community,” he said.

Over the next few months, Franciscan and health center representatives will work out the details for what this new framework will mean, he said, and noted that continued funding from Granny’s is important.

“There are a lot of needs there,” he said. “This money could support items that the Franciscans do not have money in their budget for, like technology and clinic upgrades.”

As for Granny’s, their granting cycle starts in September, Kime said, and they are fully expecting the health center to apply for funding.

“We’re every bit as much interested in granting to the clinic as anyone else,” she said

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