- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

MONTROSE, Colo. (AP) - It’s apparent from the minute a visitor walks in the door, from the crowded waiting room to the clinical staff dodging one another in the hallways, that the Olathe Community Clinic has outgrown its current space.

Fortunately for the clinic staff and the 2,800 patients it serves, CEO Debby Harrison-Zarkis closed on a new property on Jan. 15, and the entire operation will move to Main Street in downtown Olathe. Harrison-Zarkis and Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Carroll hope to have the doors open at the new location by mid-summer.

The clinic operates as a federally qualified health center, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designation for clinics that receive grant funding under the Public Health Service Act. The federally qualified centers receive several benefits that allow a unique approach to care for patients, including a sliding fee scale, comprehensive services, on-site mental health care and the ability to see underinsured or uninsured patients.

A needs assessment completed in 2013 showed 21,000 people in the immediate area that fit the clinic’s target population. With just four exam rooms in the clinic, booking patients has become difficult.

“Unfortunately we have a waiting list right now, so not everybody can get in that we want to see,” Harrison-Zarkis said. “I’m not OK with that, our board is not OK with that; we need to be serving everybody we can be serving.”

The cost of relocating the clinic was budgeted at $1.1 million, Carroll said. The clinic approached nearly every major entity for support and has secured more than $450,000 in grant funding from Colorado Health Foundation, Caring for Colorado, the Montrose County commissioners and others.

While there is a cost to the move, clinic administration and the town of Olathe hope the new location will provide an economic benefit, as well. Town Administrator Patty Gabriel, who was involved in the planning process, was happy to see the clinic stay local, and also to see it move to a more central hub.

“We’re very excited about it, excited for them to come to the downtown area, excited that they’re staying in Olathe,” Gabriel said. “It’s important that we work together to maintain that for our residents and residents in the whole area.”

The clinic currently operates in a 2,000-square-foot building, with a separate 1,700-square-foot adjacent administrative building, leased on school district property. The new space, currently known as the Professional Building downtown, offers 6,000-square-feet.

As for new patients, with its increased space and capabilities, Harrison-Zarkis estimated the patient list would grow from 2,800 to about twice that size after the move.

While searching for a new space, Harrison-Zarkis and Carroll toured other clinics to find a design that would improve care in a new building. The two decided on a “pod system” that will place clinical staff in the center of the building, surrounded by exam rooms and office spaces.

The new design will give health care providers easy access to medical assistants, the resident nurse, case managers and other clinical staff.

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Information from: The Montrose Daily Press, http://www.montrosepress.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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