Nonprofit to Promote Public Health in Oberlin

Melissa Harris, Editor-in-Chief

Lorain County Health & Dentistry, a nonprofit organization that works to provide affordable healthcare, is requesting a grant to build a community health clinic in southern Oberlin. If the grant is approved, the new clinic will provide both primary and preventative medical care, oral health and vision services and discount fees for uninsured patients who qualify based on Federal Poverty Guidelines.

The clinic, which would be located at 260 South Main Street, would also feature a prenatal and women’s health center, pediatric services, adult and family medical care, and general dentistry. In addition, the clinic would offer behavioral services, which are expected to help alleviate the stigma associated with attending a mental health center.

According to Carrie Handy, the city economic developer and housing officer, this clinic will mainly serve southern Lorain County residents and address the transportation difficulties of accessing the other four LCH&D locations.

“Lorain County Health & Dentistry’s locations are currently all urban. They’re currently in Elyria and Lorain; they didn’t have anything in southern Lorain,” said Handy. “Based on their client locations they knew that a lot of people from southern Lorain were traveling to Lorain and Elyria to get service, so they wanted to open something in this area.”

According to LCH&D President Stephanie Wiersma, cost and transportation are two of the biggest obstacles for the clinic’s lowincome, uninsured and underinsured patients.

“Anyone can come to any of our sites, but locating a community health center site in a neighborhood where there is need may be based on income status, for example, or locating [an area of high need] takes away that transportation barrier that so often interferes with individuals and families getting regular access to healthcare,” Wiersma said.

The clinic will address the financial aspect of accessibility by providing a sliding-scale fee based on patients’ incomes.

Oberlin Community Services plans to expand their scope of community outreach by collaborating with LCH&D. As OCS strives to provide “direct assistance, referrals, outreach services and educational support” to the local community, the LCH&D’s clinic will provide affordable medical services in an area with previously limited access.

“OCS is also now part of the United Community Assistance Network,” said Oberlin City Manager Eric Norenberg. “It’s a network of agencies across the county, so if one agency doesn’t have funding to provide a certain type of assistance, one of the others in the network will hopefully be able to provide that assistance. They can’t provide health care, so you add this component of a health and dentistry organization right there a few hundred yards away, and we think it’s a great opportunity, because if somebody comes in needing health care and the health care folks find that there is some other need that this family has, they can contact OCS and vice versa. We think there’s going to be a great opportunity for collaboration and synergy.”

OCS sold their South Main Street property this month for $150,000 to LCH&D. If LCH&D receives the two-year grant of $650,000 a year from the Health Resources & Services Administration “New Access Point,” this land will be used to build the health clinic.

If built, the clinic may also benefit the community by providing an economic boost.

“It will have some good paying jobs, which is important to us [in] the city,” Handy said. “The annual payroll, once it’s fully operational, will be about $650,000–$700,000 dollars, so it would be income tax revenue for the schools and the city. They do like to hire locally, so hopefully we’ll get some local residents employed there, as well.”

If LCH&D receives the HRSA’s grant, construction on the new center is expected to begin by May 2015.