Wise County Community Health Center in Decatur celebrated its grand opening Monday at noon.
The many people who helped usher it into existence were on hand for the event. It was a tribute to all the local efforts that made the clinic – a haven for the uninsured and those on Medicaid – a reality.
Wise County United Way Executive Director Martin Woodruff said the idea for such a clinic began in 2004 when former Wise County Judge Dick Chase first mentioned it. It simmered for years until 2009 when Congresswoman Kay Granger suggested that Woodruff get in touch with people involved with the Albert Galvan Health Clinic in Fort Worth.
One thing lead to another, including a host of local support, until the Federally Qualified Health Clinic (FQHC) opened in February.
“I came to Congress because I believed in local control,” Granger said at the opening. “This community health center is a testament of what you can do at the local level. It seems like a long time to y’all, but getting this going from 2009 to today is record fast in Washington time.”
The clinic in Decatur is a branch campus of North Texas Area Community Health Centers (NTACHC). It has two other campuses in Fort Worth.
It offers a sliding payment scale for uninsured and low-income patients. It accepts private insurance, Medicaid, Children’s Medicaid (CHIP) and Medicare.
It opened thanks to the efforts of Wise County United Way, Wise County Health Forum, Wise Regional Health System, several elected officials and generous individual donors. Despite not receiving a federal grant to serve as seed money for the clinic, local donors and a renovated facility by Wise Regional, allowed the clinic to open.
Wise Regional Health System CEO Steve Summers said it’s no accident the clinic is located across the highway from the Wise Regional emergency room. He said the clinic is the alternative to keep non-emergency patients without health insurance from visiting the ER.
Hospitals aren’t allowed to turn down ER patients, so those without insurance typically go there even for primary care services, which is a lot more costly than visiting a clinic.
The health clinic is coincidentally located in a former emergency room.
Arcadio Viveros, CEO of NTACHC, said he hopes for the clinic to develop into “a one-stop shop” for family health care. That includes eventually adding dental, optometry and behavioral health services.
“There is a need for the high number of uninsured and underinsured population,” Viveros said. “These people don’t have a health home … We want this to become their health home.”
The most recent U.S. census data said as much as 26 percent of Wise County residents lack health insurance. The number is also high among children. And before the clinic opened, people on Medicaid had to travel to at least Fort Worth to find a doctor who would accept new Medicaid patients.
“People on Medicaid had nowhere to go,” Woodruff said. “The few doctors (in the county) that do have Medicaid patients no longer accept new ones. They don’t get reimbursed as much by the federal government as the health procedures cost.”
A FQHC is reimbursed fully for Medicaid and CHIP patient care.
It opened Feb. 15. So far the clinic has seen 323 individuals making 481 total visits. It averages 10 to 15 patients per day.
The clinic, located at 2000 S. FM 51, Suite D, is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. For information or to schedule an appointment, call (940) 393-0100.