Medical clinics come and go, and the central peninsula has many. But the Cottonwood Health Center, opening Monday in Soldotna, is a bit different.
Its purpose is to provide better access to care for families and individuals who are under-insured, uninsured or lack primary care physicians. But its clientele is not limited.
"It is open to anyone," emphasized Jane Stein, one of the organizers.
Patients will pay on a sliding scale based on their incomes.
The health center is at the corner of the Kenai Spur Highway and Corral Avenue, in the space where John Standefer's Medex clinic was located, next door to the Peninsula Surgical Clinic.
Regular hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Walk-ins are welcome, but people should phone first to find out what paper work is required. For information, call 262-3119.
The initial staff has been hired and underwent training last week. A nurse practitioner, interim physician's assistant, two nurses, a clinic director and an assistant will provide basic health services. In addition, the dental health access project coordinator will relocate to the office, and an interim executive director will oversee the project.
"They are a very excited, beautiful group of people," Stein said.
Plans call for adding another suite and dental services at a yet-to-be-determined future date. Eventually, organizers plan to have a series of clinics around the area under the umbrella name Central Peninsula Health Centers, she said.
Many people have been calling inquiring about the services, so she anticipates a real demand as soon as the clinic opens its doors, she said.
Organizers are committed to keeping the center's focus on serving patients' needs.
"It takes a lot of work but it's worth it," she said.
In addition to offering services, the organizers have been working hard behind the scenes to set up the organization. The health centers' nine-member board of directors, formed about a month ago, is working on the final stages of its incorporation. It plans to complete the process and elect officers this month, Stein said.
The board of directors from the Bridges Community Resources Network, a nonprofit umbrella group that supports charitable services and community projects, has been working with federal and state advisers to help the new group set up bylaws.
"We've all been signing papers like crazy," Stein said.
A $650,000 federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services is paying for the new clinic.
The renewable annual funding is part of 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 Bridges. It worked with the informal steering group Healthy Communities-Healthy People to apply for the grant.
HC-HP members Stein and Stan Steadman, the interim executive director, have been working with the board and staff to bring the clinic online within the tight time line required by the grant.
"We kind of pinch ourselves and go 'omigosh,'" Stein said.
"Good things have really come together."
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