Minnesota’s network of community health clinics received some good news Wednesday: a $1.6 million federal grant to expand patient outreach and help people enroll for insurance under the new federal health law.

Sixteen community health centers, which served more than 181,000 patients last year, will use some of the funds to hire “navigators,” trained counselors who will help uninsured Minnesotans use the state’s new health-insurance exchange to buy coverage.

The insurance exchanges, set to debut in October, are a central provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

The grants announced Wednesday range from $66,000 to $255,000, depending on the number of uninsured patients each clinic serves.

About 37 percent of patients visiting the state’s community health clinics are uninsured, according to the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers.

“This is an opportunity to reach a lot of people quickly,” said Rhonda Degelau, the group’s executive director.

Overall, the grant is expected to help more than 21,000 uninsured Minnesotans enroll for medical coverage, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a release.

People’s Center Health Services in Minneapolis, which had about 36,000 patient visits last year, will receive $84,000 and hire two navigators. CEO Peggy Metzer said she was delighted by the news.

“This will allow patients to have more power to be more active consumers,” said Metzer. About 95 percent of the clinic’s clientele is below the federal poverty line.

Nationally, federal officials plan to distribute $54 million to community clinics to hire navigators under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.