A tiny Parke County community now has daily access to healthcare with the opening of a new Vermillion-Parke Community Health Center.
The Bloomingdale clinic in northern Parke County not only reaches the 360-plus residents of the tiny town, but also offers primary care to a large rural population.
Wednesday’s grand opening of the newly constructed clinic was attended by a flood of well-wishers, including representatives of the area’s Amish community, who were able to tether their horses and carriages at a hitching post at the front of the building.
“The opening of the Bloomingdale health center creates access to healthcare for patients in a town where there has been no medical provider,” said Elizabeth Burrows, the health center’s CEO. “The town of Bloomingdale and Vermillion-Parke Community Health Center partnered together, creating the opportunity for access to health care and quality employment in this rural community.”
The clinic actually opened Jan. 7, and since then Dr. Eric Beachy and family nurse practioner Carrie Cunningham have seen a growing number of patients.
“I’ve had the personal opportunity to practice here almost two months now,” Beachy said, “and it’s been a great joy. I’m really excited about the potential here.”
The community has not had an in-town healthcare provider for several years — and no modern clinic ever.
Sadly, Beachy said, among his first patients was a person who has since died because of an advanced diseased.
“If he had had access to care, it would not have progressed in that fashion,” Beachy said, “so having access to care is important.”
He credits the staff of VPCHC at the Clinton, Cayuga and mobile health clinics with making the successful expansion to Bloomingdale possible.
“What I love about rural health,” Beachy said, “is you feel you are important, and you make a real difference to the people who are here. It’s not like they can go next door and get care.”
CEO Burrows credited the successful launch of the clinic with the town board members who were excited at the prospect of getting a health clinic, and who worked to secure funding for new water utility improvement project and government funding.
The VPCHC board set a goal in 2010 to expand into Parke County, she said, and by 2012, a $650,000 renewable federal grant was received to bring healthcare to the underserved rural area.
“As a Cayuga native, and the daughter of a farmer in a rural community, I’m proud of the clinic located here and in Cayuga,” Burrows said. “I know the difficulties and transportation issues that people have. And I’m proud that these small communities now offer medical care that’s as good or better as that offered in big cities.”
Construction on the Bloomingdale clinic started last September with a groundbreaking, and the construction company worked through the winter months to reach the January opening date. While some exterior landscaping improvements remain to be made — including parking lot pavement — the interior of the building functions with modern medical equipment in four examination rooms, a lab and a treatment room.
Jon Craig, deputy director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, commended the community and county leaders for working with the VPCHC board to bring the health center to town.
“When I walked through the gravel parking lot, and over the mud still outside, and can see the excitement that is in this room, that is what rural development is all about,” Craig said. “You’ve taken a big step to invest in yourself.”
The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Appointments can be made by calling 765-498-9000.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.