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New HealthLinc clinic

In 2016, medical assistant Haley Urquidi gives William Huspek-Hein, of Wanatah, a tuberculosis vaccination at HealthLinc in Valparaiso. HealthLinc will take over operations of a safety-net clinic in LaPorte early next month.

A Valparaiso-based community health center is taking over operations of a clinic in LaPorte, expanding medical services to low-income residents of that community.

HealthLinc, which has safety-net medical clinics across northern Indiana, will begin managing the former LaPorte Physician Network Community Health Center and Community Dental Clinic at 400 Teegarden St. early next month.

"We have 1,000 patients who are in the 46350 ZIP code (LaPorte) that were driving up to Michigan City to see us," said HealthLinc CEO Beth Wrobel. "For someone who is on Medicaid, low income, it's hard to get transportation. It's easier if we can give people care closer to home."

In the early 1990s, the LaPorte hospital opened the clinic as a way to keep patients who lacked insurance from using the emergency room for their primary care. But since then, federally qualified health centers like HealthLinc have come along to fill the void, greatly expanding under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. HealthLinc, which serves patients regardless of their insurance or ability to pay, has locations in Valparaiso, East Chicago, Michigan City, Knox, Mishawaka and South Bend.

"As an FQHC, we're not only required to do more for patients, we just do it," Wrobel said. "We work with patients to make sure they can get affordable health care, to make sure they can get affordable meds, they can get affordable labs, whatever it takes. We help with transportation. We have a medical-legal partnership."

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HealthLinc has the capacity to offer more services than many hospital-based clinics can provide. The LaPorte facility already had primary, dental and women's care, but HealthLinc plans to add mental health and addiction treatment.

LaPorte Hospital CEO Ashley Dickinson stated that staffers at the LaPorte clinic "have provided high-quality, compassionate care for many years, and I’m pleased that HealthLinc will not only continue the same services but also add services at this location.”

Current patients can continue to seek care at the clinic, which will also be open to new patients. The staff there now will remain in place.

LaPorte Hospital donated the facility to HealthLinc, while the LaPorte Healthcare Foundation provided a grant for its operations.

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.