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East Side Community Health Center Builds New Facility With Stimulus Grant

Community health centers are popular among the uninsured and those with government assistance. And the federal government is pushing for of these local health facilities. But many of these health centers are small and don't have the space to accommodate patient demand. In part of our on-going series, Following the Stimulus Money, WOSU reports, a local community health center got a $4.4 million construction grant.

It's obvious before you even get in the door at Capital Park Family Health Center on Agler Road that the facility has a space issue. On this day, there is nowhere to park. Fortunately, the church nearby kindly lends its parking lot to the clinic's visitors. The parking situation is only snapshot of what's inside the center's four walls. Joy Parker is Capital Park Corporation's chief executive officer.

"I'll take you to the health center."

A woman stands at a window waiting to check out. Several others are behind her in the small foyer waiting to do the same. Beyond the window is a modest-sized room teeming with medical records - and staff.

"This is Linda who is helping with medical records. Behind you is Erma. Also Angelica is the back here. And Judy is standing out there, but her little cubby hole is there," Parker introduced.

And it's this way all over the 1,700 square foot clinic, a federally qualified health center.

Parker takes me down the hall to where nurses draw blood.

"(I mean this looks like a closet.) It is. It was. It was a housekeeping closet," Parker responded.

The housekeeping closet isn't the only conversion the facility has made to add more space for patients.

"Exam room number three up there used to be a break room for staff," she noted.

The Agler Road location serves more than 3,000 patients a year, who make roughly 12,000 t rips to the center. To break it down, the clinic sees about 33 people a day. Currently more than half of the clinics patients lack health insurance. One third doesn't speak English.

It's obvious there's a need for more space. But Parker said she wasn't sure where the funds would come from to expand the facility much less build a new one. That is, until the recession hit and federal stimulus grants began rolling out.

Capital Park was awarded a very competitive facilities improvement grant. It was one of only 85 recipients out of 600 applications from around the country. And one of only four awarded in Ohio. They got $4.4 million to build a new health clinic.

Sue Leatherman is one of the clinic's physicians. She said a new clinic will allow for primary care to be more efficient.

"Having space for more providers, more exam rooms. There's tremendous need for mental health care and dental care. Our patients very badly need those services as well. So, we're excited about being able to expand our services," Leatherman said.

The new clinic, to be located on Innis Road, will be between 12,000 and 15,000 square feet. Women's reproductive services will be offered in addition to dental and behavior health care. Parker anticipates more patients as the new health care bill kicks in. And she said the clinic will apply for operating grants to handle the increased patient load. "We can build it, but we can't serve them if we don't have the funding to add the additional providers," Parker said.

In addition to the facilities improvement grant, the organization received two other stimulus grants totaling more than $500,000 thousand dollars. That money was used for improvements to its Whitehall facility and to hire other staff including a nurse practitioner. When it's all said and done, Parker estimates about 27 jobs will have been created.

The new Capital Park facility is expected to open in fall 2011.