For now, the two non-profit health agencies, Central Peninsula Health Centers and Central Peninsula Counseling Services, are coming together to occupy the same physical address in Soldotna.
In the not too distant future, the agencies may join operationally to provide integrated physical and behavioral health care to residents in the Kenai and Soldotna areas.
On Nov. 10, dignitaries from the state and federal government including Sen. Lisa Murkowski will be on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the new Peninsula Community Health Center at Tyee Street and Marydale Avenue in Soldotna. The public is invited to the 3 p.m. event.
The two-story, 31,000 square-foot building will house 12 examination rooms, a laboratory and diagnostic room, a radiology unit and case managers' offices of Cottonwood Health Center; administrative offices of Central Peninsula Health Centers; and 16 consultation rooms, group therapy rooms and administrative offices of Central Peninsula Counseling Services.
According to Jeanne Maltby, project manager, the building cost is expected to come in nearly $1 million below the $11 million bid price. Using local contractors, the project was designed by Kenai architects Kluge and Associates, and is being built by G&S Construction of Soldotna.
Ground was broken last summer, and on Wednesday, Maltby said the project is on time.
"The goal is to be out of Cottonwood Health Center (at 170 East Corral Ave.) by the end of November," she said.
Stan Steadman, executive director of CPHC, said the new building was needed because "both organizations were space challenged."
"Cottonwood was in a strip mall. It was not designed for our needs (as a medical clinic)," Steadman said of the leased facility on Corral.
Chris Robinson, recently appointed executive director of CPCS, said a combination of benefits are derived from co-locating.
"We have the Tyee Street location in Soldotna, which has relatively high maintenance and the Lake Street facility in Kenai," Robinson said. "Between the two facilities, we have administrative inefficiencies."
He said in addition to sharing information technology and document production capabilities, the new building presents opportunities for sharing such resources as the finance and business offices. A conference room and meeting rooms also will be used in common by community health and peninsula counseling.
"The greater opportunity is for our clients who will benefit as we integrate our behavioral health and primary care services (to them)," Robinson said.
He said he does not anticipate any hardships for clients with the closing of the Lake Street facility, which serves as the center for outpatient services. There is no specific plan for use of that building.
The Forget-Me-Not Center in Kenai a CPCS senior day care facility will remain open.
Improving administrative efficiencies does not necessarily mean a staff reduction, according to Robinson. He said it means improved work-flow efficiencies and "getting out of the courier business," meaning paperwork will no longer need to be shuffled between Kenai and Soldotna CPCS offices.
Steadman also said he does not foresee any staff reductions at his organization resulting from the move. The Aspen Dental Center will remain in Kenai.
"Our organization targets folks who are challenged in terms of being able to afford health and dental care," Steadman said. "We have a sliding scale (of charges for services) based on income."
CPHC receives approximately one-third of its revenue through a federal program that funds community health centers throughout the United States, ensuring health care is available to those without medical insurance or who cannot pay for health care. Medicaid, Medicare and most major forms or insurance are accepted.
At CPCS, Robinson said, "close to 80 percent of our clients are Medicaid eligible."
"A person treated in a community health center saves money compared with being treated in private practice," Steadman said.
Because patients are not relying on expensive emergency room visits, medical expenses nationally are 41 percent lower, according to a report issued in August by the National Association of Community Health Centers.
"As a result, they save the health care system between $9.9 and $17.6 billion a year," the report states.
The new Peninsula Community Health Center on Marydale Avenue will be open for patient care beginning at noon Nov. 19. The Cottonwood Health Center on Corral Avenue will be open through Nov. 16. No services will be available on Nov. 17.
Central Peninsula Counseling will open for business in the new building on Dec. 4.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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