New year brings new health clinic

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2001

The new clinic to serve low-income central Kenai Peninsula patients will open its doors at the beginning of January.

Organizers Stan Steadman and Jane Stein announced the good news Wednesday at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The new clinic's mission is to increase access to health services for under-served individuals.

"Access will not be denied to anyone," Steadman stressed.

He will serve as the project's 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 has purchased the medical practice of John Standefer. The purchase allows them to walk into an already furnished clinic. Debbie Standefer will serve as clinic manager.

The office, as yet unnamed, is in Soldotna at the corner of the Kenai Spur Highway and Corral Avenue. It will open to patients Jan. 7.

Regular hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Walk-ins are welcome, but people are urged to phone first for information about required paperwork.

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

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

A big 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 Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The funding is for 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 explained that the grant will be renewable for running the clinic.

"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.

"It will capture dollars for our community," he said.

The board plans eventually to expand the clinic to several locations to improve service throughout the central peninsula. The umbrella name for the project is the Central Peninsula Health Centers.

Suzanne Niemi, a manager from the Alaska Primary Care Association Inc. in Anchorage, has been assisting with setting up the clinic and also spoke to the chamber.

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.

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.

"We are very excited to see it open up and get going."

Stein said the new board is working hard to meet its deadlines and making progress every day. Tuesday, she and Steadman will provide an update on the project at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The public is invited to the meeting, which will be at noon at the Riverside House.

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