Press-Republican

September 24, 2012

New clinic serves low-income patients

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — A new clinic has opened in Malone to better help the uninsured, underinsured and people on Medicaid and Medicare obtain health-care services.

The Community Health Center of the North Country is situated at 380 Creighton Road in the Malone Industrial Park, near North Star Industries, and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

SLIDING SCALE

An open house will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the new building offered to the public.

The clinic was created through a grant obtained by the Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country, based in Canton in St. Lawrence County, and the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

The Malone site is the second federally qualified medical-care facility operated by the agency.

It’s another option for low-income families to get the primary-medical care and mental-health services they need at an affordable price.

There is also help for foot care and optometry needs, and the agency partners with the Franklin County Public Nursing Service for cancer-related services.

Fees are based on a sliding scale — the minimum charge is $10 for an office visit, $20 for an appointment with a psychiatrist and $10 for a counseling session, said Doris Chenier, the association’s director.

The clinic building also houses the staff for the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

SERVICE GAP

Chenier said the agency has wanted to expand its services for a long time because of the growing need for medical and mental-health treatment among low-income households.

“When we first started years ago, we served people with developmental disabilities,” she said.

But clients’ families began asking if they, too, could get services because they couldn’t afford them or had no insurance, she explained.

That’s when the staff realized how limited access was to affordable medical help or counseling, and the idea for a sliding-scale, federally qualified clinic developed.

“We are constantly assessing the needs of the communities we serve,” Chenier said. 

There was a gap identified for primary care and certain mental-health services for low-income, uninsured or underinsured people who could not afford them.

The Cerebral Palsy Association successfully applied to be a federally qualified health-care center in 2007 and opened its first facility in Canton a short time later, Chenier said.

“Right from the start, Malone as included in the core plan.”

SIGNING UP DOCTORS

The agency was awarded $1.5 million for the Malone clinic, and construction began in January, taking advantage of the region’s rare mild winter. The first patients were seen on Aug. 28.

The agency is continuing negotiations with physicians to staff the clinic. Because of its federal designation, certain programs are available to bring in more doctors.

Recent medical-school graduates or other doctors who have been in practice a short time but continue to be burdened with loan payments can get financial help in exchange for a service commitment to the clinic, Chenier said.

Mackenzie Taylor, communications director for the Cerebral Palsy Association, said postcards will be sent to area homes to make residents aware of the new clinic and services available there. 

And a website is being developed to get more information out to the public.

For more information or to make an appointment for services, call the clinic at 483-0109.

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com