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Florida groups can compete for federal disease-prevention grants

While it still isn't clear whether Gov. Rick Scott will let Florida groups accept federal disease-prevention grants if they win one, at least they can compete.

Scott's Health Department chief, Surgeon General Frank Farmer, e-mailed "letters of support" to at least four groups late last week after Health News Florida asked why there was a hold-up on them.

Competitors for the Community Transformation Grants, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, need the letters as part of their application, due July 15. More than 50 groups in Florida had indicated they would enter the competition.

When the letters of support were slow in coming, some groups feared Scott was standing in the way. He has instructed appointees to turn down other grants that were passed as part of the federal health law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Florida is lead plaintiff in a multi-state lawsuit seeking to get the act declared unconstitutional.

The competition is for a share of $100 million, to be awarded in 75 grants worth $500,000 to $1.2 million per year over ten years.

DOH spokeswoman Jessica Hammonds on Wednesday released letters of support for four groups: Suncoast Health Council, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Florida Rural Health Association and the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida.

“This is a long process. We'll add our letter and spend the next week putting together all of the other pieces,” said Elizabeth Rugg, executive director of the Suncoast Health Council.

Farmer's letters are dated as early as June 9 and as late as July 8. It is unclear why the June 9 letter for the Suncoast Health Council was not sent out earlier.

Some groups, including an alliance led by Florida Hospital, were still waiting on their letters Wednesday afternoon.
“We're hopeful that it will arrive soon,” said Maureen Kersmarki, director of government relations.

Hammonds said she doesn't know when the rest of the letters will be sent out or which organizations will receive them.

The Governor's Office did not reply to public records requests made last week or to a phone call and e-mail reminder on Wednesday.

--Reporter Brittany Davis can be reached at 954-239-8968 or by e-mail.