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Health Clinic Looks To Reach Underserved In King-Lincoln District

Esther Honig
Council president Zach Klein, Priscilla Taylor and Equitas Health CEO Bill Hardy cut the ribbon at the health center's opening.

It's been one year since Equitas Health, a local non-profit healthcare system, expanded their mission. Now, instead of focusing solely on the LBGTQ population, they're trying to reach all vulnerable groups.

To achieve that, the organization opened a community clinic on Friday that will serve Columbus' East Side, a neighborhood with few other healthcare options.

For about every 5,000 residents on the East Side, there's just one primary care physician who serves. Only 11.6 percent of residents were seen by a health center in 2014. 

The new King-Lincoln Medical Center will offer primary care, dental, mental health and pharmacy services. Another important factor: they accept all forms of private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare. For the uninsured, the clinic will offer a sliding fee scale.

CEO and president Bill Hardy says that's important given the uncertainty of the future of Ohio's healthcare system.

"Health care is a basic human need and people need to know where to go to get healthcare that embraces them, that accepts them, that supports them, that's high quality and accessible to all regardless of availability to pay," Hardy says.

In continuing the organizations original mission, the clinic will still offer specialized services for LGBTQ patients, HIV care and STI testing.

An additional $150,000 in public funding was contributed by Columbus City Council.

Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson, who attended Friday's ribbon cutting ceremony, grew up in the neighborhood. Tyson said she's aware of the need this area has.

"It's a health desert," Tyson said. "There really aren't enough healthcare facilities in this area."

Tyson says she's hopeful the GOP healthcare bill that was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives will not pass the Senate. The new bill has outlined cuts to Medicaid that could jeopardize health insurance for thousands of Ohioans.

Tyson says regardless of the outcome, this clinic will still connect locals with desperately needed healthcare resources.

"Should that happen I think [this clinic] will have the resources to be able to provide the services to this community."