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Health care provider plans Bridgeport clinic

— A new Family Health Centers clinic will soon serve local residents.

This will be the first time the city has had a permanent medical clinic in decades.

The facility will open with limited services around the end of February at 1015 Columbia Ave., Chief Executive Officer Michael Hassing said. A health care provider from Brewster will likely open the clinic once per week.

“We’ve been talking about it now for several years, we’ve talked about it with the City Council, and now we have even more resources and more help in getting started there,” he said.

A full rollout of services, from dental to medical and some mental and behavioral health, is tentatively slated for September, when renovations of the building should be complete.

“Accessible health care is a critical and vital component of a healthy community,” Mayor Marilynn Lynn said. “We are thrilled and grateful that Family Health Centers is moving forward to bring medical, dental, and mental health opportunities to our Bridgeport residents and are willing partners in providing these needed services in our community.”

Lynn, who has lived in Bridgeport for more than 30 years, said she couldn’t remember the last time a full service, permanent medical clinic was in town.

Councilman Neil Jacobson said he thinks it’s “great.”

“Not everyone has good transportation and this will help them,” he said.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration awarded a grant of more than $858,000 to Family Health Centers to open a “new access point” in Bridgeport, Hassing said.

About $150,000 of that is for capital equipment and renovation of the building Family Health Centers purchased, which formerly housed North Cascades National Bank.

“It’s going to look like the inside of a bank building for a little bit until we finish doing the renovations,” Hassing said. “It’s a great location.”

Four medical exam rooms, four dentist chairs and a small waiting room and staff area are planned for the new clinic, and new medical providers and dentists will be recruited.

“Bridgeport ranks really, really high in health disparities and also really low in the ability to access services locally,” Hassing said. “Even through Bridgeport is only 10 miles away from Brewster, many don’t have the transportation to make it possible.”

Hassing estimated that roughly 1,200 patients from the Bridgeport area travel to Brewster’s Family Health Centers clinics, located at 525 W. Jay Ave. and 520 W. Indian Ave. There’s also a dental clinic at 106 N. Sixth St. in Brewster.

“Based on the needs assessment for the area, there are well over 3,000 people living in the Bridgeport area,” he said. That number doesn’t account for the influx of migrant farm workers every spring and summer.

“We feel that there’s going to be a real high demand from that group as well as from the people who are living in Bridgeport year-round,” Hassing said.

The organization began in 1985 as the Okanogan Farm Workers Clinic, he said, and some longtime residents still refer to it as such even after the name changed in 1992 and the focus expanded to all uninsured or underinsured people.

Family Health Centers is a non-profit organization. It also has medical and dental offices in Okanogan, Oroville and Tonasket. Women, Infant and Children benefit locations are also in those towns as well as in Twisp.

The organization broke ground in July on a 19,793-square-foot clinic at 1003 Koala Drive in Omak. It will replace the main clinic in Okanogan at 716 First Ave. S.

“It’s coming along really nice,” Hassing said.

Concrete for the floor was poured last week, and crews were working on framing the interior and finishing the roof membrane to keep precipitation out. Masons will install brick and stucco on the outside within the next couple weeks.

The Omak clinic should be finished and ready to open by late June, he said.

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