All Crosswalks Lead to Care
Southern Tier Community Health Center simply did not have enough space. Situated between two poor counties—both federally designated health professional shortage areas—the clinic was stretched thin and could barely fit its providers, let alone serve its high-need population. A lunchroom that sat eight had to fit 40 employees, and patient privacy was always an issue.
In 2012, NYSHealth awarded Southern Tier a grant to help the clinic find a new site. This unique grant hired an architect to design a space to meet Southern Tier’s needs and help it expand into a 10,000 square foot space, improving the clinic’s ability to serve patients. From this redesign, the clinic was able to increase its number of exam rooms from 10 to 19; add another treatment room; add a care management area space for nurses to conduct disease management and patient education; include space for an outreach/enrollment coordinator; and add a quiet area for behavioral health services.
In a small community of 16,000 people, Southern Tier’s new clinic in the city of Olean was slated to be built in its most commercially occupied part. There was initial concern about the new location because it moved the clinic away from the local hospital. “We were afraid we would be disconnected from the hospital’s services,” said Gail Speedy Mayeaux, Executive Director of Southern Tier. “But in fact, the Olean site could not have been situated in a better place.” Located in the heart of downtown, more patients—especially the vulnerable and the elderly—were able to walk to the clinic, which is now within a one-mile radius of four low-income housing projects, two homeless projects, the county’s sole soup kitchen, a legal services provider for civil action, and a mental health treatment facility. Two main cross streets mark the downtown area of Olean, and all crosswalks lead to the clinic.
A community college is also less than a block away from Southern Tier Community Health Center’s Olean clinic. Its student population includes adults who have returned to school or are older, single mothers. Many of these students are uninsured, and many have acute illness, which causes them to fall behind in class. With its expanded services and new location, the Olean clinic is now able to send its outreach and enrollment coordinator to the college to help these students make health appointments, pay using a sliding fee scale, and apply for Medicaid if eligible. In 2015, Southern Tier helped nearly 100 students apply for Medicaid.
Also in 2015, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) offered Southern Tier a grant opportunity to consider moving to another building closer to the local hospital. Based on patient feedback, however, the current Olean site was overwhelmingly favored because of its walkable and convenient location—and so it remained.
At the end of NYSHealth’s grant period to Southern Tier, the clinic had 6,525 patients. As of 2015, the clinic has reported 8,684 patients and more than 31,000 visits—a 33% growth in patients served.
“This is the best place to be right now,” said Ms. Speedy Mayeaux.
Note: Southern Tier Community Health Center has been renamed Universal Primary Care.