News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 28, 2014

By another name: Wabash Valley Health Center

Former St. Ann’s clinic, under new banner, expands services, facilities

TERRE HAUTE — On Friday, the Wabash Valley Health Center started a new chapter, one that enables it to serve more people of all ages and sustains it financially for the future.

Clinic staff, volunteers, community partners and supporters stood outside the center, also known as St. Ann Medical and Dental Services, to celebrate the transition to a Federally Qualified Health Center.

As a result of the change, the center will now serve people of all ages and it can accept all payer sources, including Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance.

“The lives we can touch and serve expands dramatically,” said Charles Welker, the new chief executive officer.

The center, at 1436 Locust St., hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the occasion. It is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence.

The grant requires the FQHC to use a sliding fee scale, but Welker stressed the core mission of serving those who can’t afford health care will remain.

“We may not turn anyone away because of their inability to pay,” he said. “That’s been part of who we are for the past 17 years, and we’re able to sustain that mission.”

In November 2013, the center was awarded a grant from the United States Health and Human Services for $778,750. It also was designated as an FQHC.

The federal grant is a result of the Affordable Care Act, Welker said. Those dollars “help us sustain our future,” he said.

During Friday’s program, Welker thanked those who have been involved with the clinic the past 17 years. He also thanked those who have worked the past three or four years to make the FQHC possible.

With the change, the Wabash Valley Health Center becomes one of about 1,300 health centers across the country serving 22 million people. “We’re very proud of that,” he said.

Pete Ciancone, president of the board of directors, said he was humbled to be part of the health center. “I see hands, hearts and minds devoted to helping the people in our community, our neighbors, who need one of the most basic of human rights — health and wellness,” he said.

He noted that at least 51 percent of the board must be clients of the clinic. “We are guided by the people we serve,” Ciancone said.

Mayor Duke Bennett described the health center as “a perfect way to serve the community. It’s about the ultimate way to do that, with people who have health issues.”

Health problems can tear families apart financially if they don’t have insurance or other resources, he said. “As God continues to bless this entity and the people who are part of it, let it continue to bless our community as a whole and heal people.”

Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson offered an invocation

In the past, the center has served uninsured adults ages 18-64. However, the grant and new qualifications will enable the center to serve children as well.

“We will start slowly with pediatrics,” said Sister Lawrence Ann Liston, chief operating officer. The center initially plans to take children of current patients.

The center had about 15,000 visits in 2013, she said. With the transition, officials are projecting an increase of 3,000 visits.

WVHC, which has more than 200 volunteers, also will be hiring new staff including a full time medical director, an additional nurse practitioner and support staff, both clerical and medical assistants.

But volunteer staff “will continue to be critical to our survival and our mission,” Welker said. “We are so grateful for what they’ve done and we’ll continue to lean on them heavily.”

The center no longer takes donations of medical supplies, but monetary donations and grants “continue to be very important to us,” Welker said.

The Wabash Valley Health Center was founded in 1997. It is a non-profit clinic that provides health care to the poor who also do not have access to health services.

Its services include primary medical care, initial medical/dental assessment, pharmacy, dermatology, psychological counseling, physical therapy, podiatry services, optometry, chronic disease management and more.

Current hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 812-232-7447.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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