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Neighborhood Health Clinics nearly finished with $746,857 expansion

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 8:03 am

Neighborhood Health Clinics has nearly completed its expansion project.

The agency at 1717 S. Calhoun St. is giving clients a bigger clinic with more staffing while providing free off-street parking. The nonprofit organization has been around since 1969.

The clinic has completed a 10,000-square-foot expansion connected by a pedestrian bridge over Calhoun to 303 free parking places in a new three-story garage. The project cost $746,857.

The WIC building, adjacent to the medical building, initially was to be expanded to a second floor, but the costs were too high. Instead the money was used for a connecting building between the two.

Although the WIC program space has not expanded on Calhoun, the agency has taken that program into the community instead, said Mary Haupert, president and CEO. Over the past year the WIC program has rented space at Parkview Hospital's birthing center and the agency has plans to do the same in Lutheran Health Network this year.

Due to the increased size at the clinic, the volume of patients has gone up. In 2008 it had 44,085 medical and dental visits compared to 51,776 in 2012. the expansion includes six medical exam rooms, two new dental chair operating areas, with waiting areas and nurse's stations to go with these new areas. It also added office space and an expanded lab.

Because of the clinic's increased patient volume, the staff has increased to 135. When Haupert started in 1995 the clinics had 30 employees. Because of the increased size and staffing there are no longer wait times for new patients, Haupert said. On the clinic side if a current patient calls in and is sick he or she can be seen today or tomorrow.

While the slump in the economy means more people with limited resources and more who have lost their medical insurance, patients have also been limiting their number of medical visits or procedures. Haupert said they are finding patients are less likely to come in, or just come in for more preventive measures.

The clinic charges clients on a sliding scale, which is based on household income. Their income level is compared to federal poverty guidelines. Those who make at or below the federal poverty guidelines will pay 10 percent of the fee. Those at over 200 percent of poverty guidelines would pay a normal fee like anyone else at a doctor's office.

Haupert said she wants to make sure clients understand the new parking ramp is open and available for their use. The entrance is close to St. Vincent DePaul on Calhoun Street and exits onto Wallace Street. Landscaping and signs are still being completed but should be done by August. There will soon be a sign closer to the street to let patients know where the entrance is.

To celebrate the clinic's new expansion it will hold a health fair Aug. 15. They have several sponsors for the event including St Joseph Community Health Foundations and Parkview Community Health.

The clinic originated as Three Rivers Neighborhood Health Services and was founded by the Allen County Medical Society as a voluntary health service to provide well child services to low-income children of Allen County. In 1994, it changed its name and expanded services to include a full line of primary medical services for all ages. In 1998, it opened a full-service dental clinic. It offers various state grant programs including WIC (Women, Infants and Children Nutritional Supplement Program). It is a federally qualified health center for Medicaid and Medicare patients.