Low-income clinic set to open in Soldotna

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- The new year will bring a new clinic to the central Kenai Peninsula to serve low-income patients.

The clinic, organized as part of Central Peninsula Health Centers, will open its doors in Soldotna early this month.

Organizers Stan Steadman and Jane Stein say the clinic's mission is to increase access to health services for under-served individuals.

''Access will not be denied to anyone,'' said Steadman, who will serve as interim director during the start-up phase.

The peninsula has a good health care system, but some people fall between the cracks, he said.

Low-income people without insurance will be able to access basic medical care at the new clinic and pay on a sliding scale based on their incomes.

The new clinic board of directors purchased the medical practice of John Standefer. The purchase allows them to walk into an already furnished clinic.

Initially, a nurse practitioner will provide the majority of the care.

''We will be hiring our own providers,'' Steadman said.

A priority for the project is to add dental services, particularly for children, as soon as possible. That service may be in a different location.

Initially, however, services will be limited. Organizers plan to recruit more staff and seek dentists and physicians to donate time.

''The dental is probably going to have to wait,'' Steadman said.

The new clinic is being funded with a $650,000 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, passed through the state via the Alaska Frontier Health Plan, designed to bring basic health-care services to under-served parts of the state.

The grant, brokered by Sen. Ted Stevens' office, was awarded in October to the Bridges Community Resources Network.

Bridges, a nonprofit umbrella group that supports charitable services and community projects, worked with the informal steering group Healthy Communities-Healthy People to apply for the grant.

Steadman said the grant will be renewable.

''It isn't just a one-shot situation,'' he said.

The new clinic also will benefit the area's economy by allowing people to purchase health care close to home instead of having to travel to Anchorage, Steadman said.

Board members hope to eventually expand service to several locations to throughout the central peninsula.

Suzanne Niemi, a manager from the Alaska Primary Care Association in Anchorage, has been assisting with setting up the clinic.

Community health clinics date back to 1965, and the nation now has 3,000. They are private, nonprofit entities, directed by consumers and funded by federal grants, she said.

The first such clinic in Alaska opened in 1974 in Anchorage. The state now has 24, she said.

''The Central Peninsula Health Centers will be the newest community health center,'' Niemi said.

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