Santa Rosa Community Health Centers is planning to build a $6 million medical clinic in west Santa Rosa by summer of 2017, the 10th health center for the rapidly growing health care provider.
The 24,000-square-foot facility, which would offer dental, mental health and primary care medical services, underscores the growing role such clinics play in a health care landscape that has been transformed by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“We recognize that we need to be able to increase our capacity to serve the number of people who are needing to be cared for,” said Harold Brockman, the health centers’ chief financial officer.
Brockman said the health center consortium is in the process of purchasing the building at 1300 N. Dutton Ave., a space currently occupied by Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County. The purchase price of the building is set at about $3.2 million, and it will cost an additional $3 million to design, renovate and equip the facility, he said.
“We’re only just now starting to work on planning for how we will use that space” with placement of exam rooms, dental rooms and other medical offices, Brockman said.
The facility will be the first health centers clinic with primary care, dental and mental health services housed in a single building. Its largest clinic, the 40,000-square-foot Vista Family Health Center in northeast Santa Rosa, has no dental clinic. The health centers system has a dedicated dental clinic on North Dutton Avenue, not far from where the new clinic will be located.
With 45,000 patients, Community Health Centers is the county’s largest federally qualified health center system. Along with other local health centers, the operation has grown rapidly over the years, adding a number of clinics on both sides of the Highway 101 corridor.
That growth is owed largely to large amounts of federal funding aimed at expanding the nation’s primary care infrastructure for low-income residents. A federally qualified health center receives a beefed-up reimbursement from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act greatly expanded the number of patients covered by Medicaid and targeted billions of dollars for federally qualified health centers across the country, including many community clinics on the North Coast.
“Health centers are expanding and becoming an even greater part of the health system across California,” said Suzie Shupe, CEO of the Redwood Community Health Coalition, a consortium of Northern California health centers in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Yolo counties.
Shupe said the growth of local health centers is a direct result of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s exciting to see so many people covered across the board,” she said. “From primary care to specialty care to hospitals, everybody is seeing an impact in how people are able to access care.”
Shupe said that as health centers continue to add patients and consequently grow in size, these systems also will need to look at ways to provide more specialty care beyond the primary care setting.
Laurie Lynn Hogan, a spokeswoman for Community Health Centers, said the entire system has begun integrating mental health services at its existing dental center on North Dutton Avenue. It’s a pilot program in which a mental health worker sees kids and adults with severe anxiety about dental work at the dental center prior to their appointments.
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“There are already positive outcomes emerging,” Hogan said in an email. “A kid who’d vomit with just a mirror being placed in his mouth was able to sit through a cleaning, for example.”
The planned clinic will provide a new model aimed at addressing the “medical, mental and dental needs as a system and not as individual parts,” she said.
Brockman said the health center system expects to take possession of the property by the end of June. It will then take approximately 12 months to complete the renovation and staff the facility. The clinic could be open by summer 2017.