Health center plans to expand services, construct new facility

Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Cottonwood Health Center will begin offering limited behavioral health services and is seeking to build a new facility, its executive director told Soldotna business people Tuesday.

Beginning June 1, the Soldotna health center, which provides health care regardless of a patient's ability to pay, will provide short-term behavioral health services through a contract provider.

"We've found that 50 percent of the people we provide health care services to suffer from symptoms of depression," said Stan Steadman, executive director of Central Peninsula Health Centers Inc., which oversees Cottonwood as well as the Aspen Dental Center in Kenai.

Anne Evans, special projects manager who also runs the dental center, said, "We'll do basic short-term behavioral services in our facility and work with Central Peninsula Counseling Services for long-term care.

"We'll be contracting with the (Central Peninsula General) hospital for Matt Dammeyer's services," she said. Dammeyer is the CPGH director of behavioral health.

Steadman and Evans presented an update on community health care services provided by Cottonwood since it opened three years ago and Aspen Dental, which began providing dental care in April 2003.

"Currently we have two physicians, one physician's assistant and one family nurse practitioner," Steadman said, introducing Dr. Paul Sanders, who joined Cottonwood on Monday.

"In 2003, we served 2,828 patients, had 6,247 encounters and 855 case-management encounters," Steadman said.

Encounters are individual office visits by a patient, according to Evans.

She told the business leaders that Aspen Dental served 1,271 patients in 2003, representing 3,720 encounters.

The dental center has two pediatric specialist dentists who are there eight days a month, one full-time dentist and one part-time dentist who is there three days a week.

Aspen Dental primarily serves children through their 19th birthday but also serves adults on an emergency basis.

Evans said the Cottonwood Health Center operates out of a 4,000-square-foot space, which is not enough room to meet the needs of its patients.

In response to the challenge of serving an increasing number of patients, Evans said CPHC has formed an areawide collaboration of health care agencies, received a grant for behavioral health services, developed a strategic plan for regional health care and created a centralized referral network of providers.

The Health Services Opportunities Collaborative includes CPHC, the hospital, Central Peninsula Counseling Services, the Division of Public Health, the Ionia mental health community in Kasilof, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, Cook Inlet Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, Frontier Community Services and Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

In addition, Steadman said the organization is planning for a new facility.

He said CPHC has received a Denali Commission grant for conceptual planning of a new facility, but as yet, has not decided on a location.

"The dental clinic has some additional property available," he said, but because a preferable location would be nearer the hospital, CPHC is looking at a site on the corner of Tyee Street and Marydale Avenue in Soldotna.

Cottonwood Health Center currently is at 170 East Corral St. in Soldotna.

When asked how much money would be needed to build a new facility, Steadman said the cost is still in the planning process.

"We may have a number as early as next week," he said.

Steadman also said he hopes to get funding for the project from the Denali Commission.

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