A new health center focused on treating Lebanon residents who can’t afford primary care is opening later this month.
The WellSpan Dixon Foundation Health Center, on Fourth and Willow streets, will serve as a primary care and integrated behavioral health care provider for vulnerable Lebanon residents. The center is being run by Family First Health, a York-based federally qualified health center that also has locations in Adams and Lancaster counties.
There was a historical need for primary care in Lebanon, compounded by the influx of residents after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“History told us there were a lot of folks using the emergency department for primary care needs,” Family First CEO Jenny Englerth said. “We also knew the new residents would need primary care and also some additional supports.”
Lebanon’s Puerto Rican population grew after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Lebanon School District officials estimated roughly 250 students enrolled across the district in the weeks and months after the storm.
The health center is focused on breaking down barriers to care, like financial burden and language barriers. The staff being hired is primarily bilingual, said Meg Wheeler, vice president of operations and quality for Family First Health.
As a federally qualified health center, Family First operates on a sliding fee scale.
Englerth said Family First also works to connect its patients with other service providers in the community, like housing, food assistance and transportation supports. Wheeler said they will likely recalibrate which services they provide after they learn more about what their patients and the community needs.
“Everything we do is in support of primary care,” Wheeler said.
In a ribbon-cutting event Tuesday, dozens of community leaders gathered to tour the new health center. The 7,000-square-foot facility is in the bottom floor of WellSpan’s building at Fourth and Willow streets that also houses WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital’s rehabilitation unit and WellSpan Family Medicine.
It has 12 exam rooms, and the entire center is built to be accessible to those with physical disabilities. Wheeler said they expect to treat about 3,000 patients a year.
Family First is focused on connecting with other community organizations to help its patients be healthy in a holistic sense, Englerth said.
During the ribbon-cutting, Englerth said Family First views access to health like going through a “series of locked doors.” Locked behind the doors are nutritious foods, safe neighborhoods, affordable primary care and culturally competent care providers.
There will be a community health worker employed at the center who will work to make those community connections.
“When people have the keys they need to address good health, our entire community is stronger,” Englerth said.
The project was funded in part by a $2 million gift from the Francis J. Dixon Foundation, which is led by Frank Dixon.
“It’s just a great honor for the Dixon Foundation to see things like this and it means so much to me,” Dixon said Tuesday.
The center will open for patients on Feb. 19.
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