Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lexington, Ky., to open $11.7 million physical, mental health clinic for poor, uninsured people

From The Herald-Leader in Ky.:

An $11.7 million federal grant will bring treatment of physical and mental health for the poor and homeless of Lexington into a 60,000-square-foot space.

"I can't tell you how excited we are. We are struggling constantly to keep our citizens from falling through the cracks," said Shannon Ware, president of the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board. "Mental health patients often don't get any primary (health) care."

The grant, announced at a news conference Oct. 11, represents a partnership between the mental health board and the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. The two groups have been working for more than a year to apply for the grant, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

William North, the health department's director of primary care, said the partnership represents the "truly integrated mental and physical health services." Such health centers are "going to be at the center of health care reform," he said.

Many of the current patients served by both groups are poor, homeless or uninsured. But with the new facility, the health clinic will rival the physical space of any office frequented by those with private insurance. The health department clinic will "no longer be the clinic of last resort," said medical director Dr. Deborah Stanley.

There is a two-year time frame to build the three-story building, which will have a primary-care health clinic on the first floor and mental health and substance abuse services on the upper floors.

The mental health board is donating 3 acres, valued at about $2.4 million, on its campus at 1351 Newtown Pike for the new building. The exact location within the campus has not been determined.

The grant couldn't have come at a better time, Ware said. The board's residential substance abuse treatment program and crisis intervention programs are now on the Eastern State Hospital site at Newtown Pike and Fourth Street, which is going to be torn down to make way for a new Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus. That demolition and completion of the new project are both on a two-year deadline.

"Rarely does something come up like this when we really need it. The stars don't align too often out here," Ware said during Monday's announcement at the mental health board's office.

In the end, the new Eastern State Hospital, which is already under construction, the primary care clinic and the mental health board programs will all be within easy access of one another at a primary campus.

Stanley said the Lexington health department clinic is at capacity and served about 17,000 patients last year. The current clinic location, 650 Newtown Pike, will continue to operate.

The new building will have room for three additional practitioners who can treat as many as 24 patients a day.

The new space, according to health commissioner Dr. Melinda Rowe, "will give the staff the dream job of designing just what this space is going to look like" and how to make the space work most effectively.

She said it will "be so much better for the patients and their families."