06/01/14 — WATCH plans to add third clinic this fall

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WATCH plans to add third clinic this fall

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 1, 2014 1:50 AM

A state award and a grant will allow Wayne Action Teams for Community Health the chance to add a third location to provide community health services, but only for a year, officials say.

The $225,000 grant from Golden Leaf is earmarked for the expansion, which is expected to occur this fall, Executive Director Sissy Lee-Elmore told the WATCH board Wednesday. The funding, however, only covers 15 months.

"We asked for three years. That's how (the grant) was written," she said. "They cut it."

WATCH, which provides free primary and acute health services and related lab tests to the uninsured residents of Wayne County, opened in August 2000. A 40-foot mobile medical unit canvasses the county, delivering services at scheduled locations each month. In August 2009, a second clinic location opened at the YMCA.

The anticipated third location will be at the Wound Center behind Wayne Memorial Hospital. The site, which has four exam rooms, is already set up as a clinic, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said, and will be vacated when staff there relocate to a new office building on the hospital campus.

"We'll probably move in August, open the clinic in October or November and run through 2015," she said.

She said she is in the process of securing staff for the additional clinic, which will include a nurse practitioner, front office person and an office assistant.

While it is advantageous to have an additional option for services, Mrs. Lee-Elmore told the board it is not an ideal situation to have such a limited time constraint. There is no guarantee the funding will be extended or renewed, she said.

In fact, the climate for grant funding has grown increasingly restrictive, she added. Some foundations have changed their requirements and accept grant applications by invitation only, she said.

The need for health care services is not going away. Over the years, WATCH has experienced many stops and starts with regard to providing care. The program is currently accepting new patients.

WATCH's ability to provide services in the community has drawn attention from a variety of sources, including the Association of Free Clinics, which recently notified Mrs. Lee-Elmore of the first-time award as Most Outstanding Clinic.

"It's the only one for the state," she said. "It comes with a $3,500 prize and a plaque."

Earning the "gold standard" for clinics in the state centered around WATCH's quality improvements and performance measures.

"Our outcomes were better than any other clinic in the state," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "This is the first time we have ever gotten an award without applying for it."

Among the statistics cited for 2013, WATCH provided $3.9 million in services, 8,790 visits to 3,972 unduplicated patients. The program recorded 9,576 30-day prescriptions with a retail value of $2 million made available to patients with chronic diseases, and $471,408 in free labs.

According to patients surveyed, 54 percent indicated a decrease in hospitalizations when compared to the previous year, 81 percent responded that their health improved as a WATCH patient and 87 percent reported WATCH as their primary care provider.

In addition to providing clinical services, WATCH also oversees a teen pregnancy prevention program, the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force and Healthy Behaviors Task Force.

The Healthy Behaviors Task Force is in the process of merging with GoWayneGo, the local initiative launched earlier in the year with the Health Department and hospital.

"WATCH will act as the home and fiduciary agency (for GoWayneGo)," said Mrs. Lee-Elmore, who is writing a grant to elicit funds for the program. "Our goals are to increase physical activity and improve healthy eating.

"We would also like to affect the outcomes of diabetes and hypertension in Wayne County."