E.C. clinic to focus on care for uninsured, underinsured

2013-04-24T16:30:00Z 2013-04-25T16:25:05Z E.C. clinic to focus on care for uninsured, underinsuredBy Vanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

EAST CHICAGO | A health clinic that will provide care to uninsured and underinsured people is scheduled to open June 1 at 100 W. Chicago Ave.

HealthLinc, a federally qualified health center, or FQHC, received funding for the clinic. It will partner with St. Catherine Hospital to offer primary care, preventive care, family practice and OB/GYN among other services.

Several thousand patients already rely on care from an FQHC at 1313 W. Chicago Ave., but that will close at the end of May. The HealthLinc site will fill the gap.

"We want the continuity of care to be there," said Jo Ann Birdzell, CEO of St. Catherine Hospital. "We are proud to partner with HealthLinc that has a proven track record of high quality affordable primary medical, dental and behavioral health services," she said.

HealthLinc operates clinics in Valparaiso, Michigan City, Knox and Mishawaka and a community mental health center in Valparaiso. The clinic was looking for opportunities to open in northern Lake County, CEO Beth Wrobel said.

"There's such a need in that area," she said.

The clinics partner with hospitals and act as their safety net, she said.

"We don't want to see people getting care in the ER," she said.

Patients have an intake appointment where their financial status is assessed. The fee for service is based on a sliding scale that relates to their income.

“Our target population is people living below 200 percent of federal poverty level,” she said.

Birdzell said the community heavily depends on FQHC services, especially for OB/GYN needs.

A hospital survey of 500 people in East Chicago showed a demand for more obstetrics and prenatal care, as well as substance abuse treatment, high blood pressure management, diabetes and cancer care, she said.

More screenings, coaching, classes and activities are needed to improve the community's health.

"It's building partnerships within the area, so we're all working together and contributing and not duplicating," Birdzell said.

Wrobel said the clinic wants to host a meet-and-greet with the community and, once it is up and running, assemble a community advisory board to provide input.

Hours of operation for the clinic, which will share a building with physicians affiliated with St. Catherine Hospital, have not been finalized.

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