Hopewell Health Centers Hopes To Add Medical Care To Athens Facility

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Federal funding will be sought to add a physician's office to Hopewell Health Centers' mental health facility in Athens.

If funding is approved, a primary care office would be added to 90 Hospital Drive in the facility previously known as Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling. In 2013, Tri-County and Family Healthcare Inc. merged to form Hopewell Health Centers.

Mark Bridenbaugh, CEO of Hopewell Health Centers, said $650,000 in annual funding is being sought through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. If approved, the annual funding would be ongoing.

This week, the Athens County Commissioners sent a letter in support of the grant application.

"The new practice location in Athens, Ohio will provide a medical home to those individuals currently having problems accessing a medical or behavioral health provider, largely due to the fact that they are uninsured or covered by Medicaid," the commissioners wrote. "Athens is located in rural, Southeastern Ohio and my individuals are forced to drive in excess of 30 minutes to access care." 

The grant process is competitive, and Bridenbaugh estimated that there could be 600-800 applications, with only about 150 proposals to be funded. The funding is part of the Affordable Care Act, he said.

The creation of Hopewell Health Centers brought under one entity the medical facilities of Family Healthcare and the mental health facilities of  Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling. Hopewell already has behavioral health workers — essentially social workers — at its medical facilities in McArthur, The Plains and Logan, and will be adding them to its medical facilities in New Lexington and Pomeroy through a recently received $250,000 behavioral health integration grant, Bridenbaugh said.

The new proposal seeking the $650,000 is intended to also take the process in the opposite direction — adding medical personnel to the former Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling facilities, starting with the Athens location, Bridenbaugh said.

If the Athens project goes as planned, the idea would be to also do it at other former Tri-County locations.

The overall concept is to be able to prove either medical or mental health services, or both, to clients that come to the facilities.

The grant proposal calls for adding a primary care physician and a nurse practitioner to the 90 Hospital Drive facility. The overall annual budget would be about $1.5 million, which would include Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance payments, according to Bridenbaugh.

Bridenbaugh said statistics show the people with mental illness die younger because they don't receive adequate medical care. However, the new medical office would not only be open to Hopewell Health Centers' mental health clients.

"The health center would be open to the general population," Bridenbaugh said.

The grant application is due Oct. 7, but it will be a while before word is received on whether it will be funded.

"It usually takes about six months," Bridenbaugh said.