ST GEORGE — Looking out over a new 33,000-square-foot medical complex rising from Dinosaur Crossing, the CEO of Family Health Services said the southern Utah health provider is completing a metamorphosis.
“I think we were a cocoon. And now we’re a big butterfly and we get to do all the good things we’ve been trying to do,” said Lori Wright, CEO of Family Healthcare.
The grand opening of Family Health Services’ new flagship health facility on August 16 was marked with fanfare and lunch after two years of construction. The first patient will be accepted on Monday.
The new center at 2276 Riverside Drive will replace Family Health Services’ clinics in downtown St. George and Millcreek High School, both of which are closing to make way for a new, state-of-the-art facility.
Maria Griselda Briseno worked as a medical assistant for 18 years at the Millcreek location, where Washington County School District students were allowed medical visits for a $10 co-pay. She said she wouldn’t mind moving to the new facility next door, especially since her old clinic is no more than a classroom building.
“It’s a real blessing to finally see it happen. And we need to be here,” Briceno said. “We want something good to happen to the community.”
The new facility, which cost $12 million to build, is designed as a one-stop shop with the capacity to serve about 30,000 patients a year. While people typically need to go to separate facilities for their physical health, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy needs, Riverside Clinic houses all four of those services. Presumably, one can get a check-up, see a physician, get one filled and get their prescriptions filled in the same building.
“In this facility, the providers don’t have their own office. They sit next to their MA (medical assistant) every day, all day. And we have a place for them or the care coordinator or community health workers for behavioral health to sit,” Wright said. “If you come and see us, we’ll take care of you.”
Far from being its only client, Family Health Services specializes in local residents who are at the lower end of the income bracket, with 45% of patients in the low income bracket. The clinic uses a sliding scale to determine payment based on a person’s income and, according to Family Health Services, 6 out of 10 of their patients are either underinsured or have no insurance. This includes being able to provide drugs like insulin to diabetics at prices below the $100 line.
“It’s one of the few places that accepts any patient, whether they have funding or insurance or not, and then helps them find ways to get services,” said Sherry Dial, a member of Family Health Services’ board of directors.
But Wright was also quick to point out that helping low-income people get medical care doesn’t mean they provide cut-rate services.
“We compare the quality of our care to every provider in this community. A lot of Intermountain Clinics, Revere Clinics … we’re at the top there providing high-quality care,” Wright said, adding that Family Health Care needs to be creative to maintain a low price point. “The price point might be better, but it might also mean we’re doing things a little more oddly.”
Family Health Services is not a complete substitute for care provided by Intermountain Healthcare’s St. George Regional Hospital. In fact, hospital officials were on hand for the grand opening and consider themselves partners. But both Wright and Intermountain officials said family health services play an important role in southern Utah, especially in keeping uninsured and low-income residents from using hospital emergency rooms as a type of health clinic.
Some of Family Healthcare’s patients aren’t necessarily in such a low-income bracket: local business owner and artist Alice West, known for her Afffogato West coffee business. West was at the grand opening, partly in gratitude and partly to help provide refreshments.
West said the medical provider lives up to its name.
“I feel like it’s family. I’ve never hesitated to call my doctor because I know within a few hours I’m going to get a phone call and something can be set up. And often I can see that day or a little later. So they Always very careful,” West said. “It’s been a challenging year for me health-wise. And so I’ve been able to overcome a lot and know that they’ve been with me every step of the way … it’s a big difference. It is, it’s definitely different.”
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