Polk County Community Health and Wellness Center to open soon

Published 4:52 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

The funding from Polk County will come from money designated for Western Highlands Network, the state&39;s eight county mental health entity which includes Polk County.

Jim Van Hecke of the Polk County Mental Health and Substance Abuse initiative told commissioners the wellness center has contracted with a psychiatrist and hired staff to provide the services. He said the clinic is ready to open its doors on March 2.

&dquo;We know that the need is in Polk County and feel like we&squo;re prepared to meet that need,&dquo; Van Hecke said.

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The Polk County Community Health and Wellness Center grew out of a grassroots meeting several years ago of residents who sought to fill the gaps in service that arose from what they viewed as a failed reform of the state mental health system.

The group, which still exists as the Polk County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Initiative, came up with goals and phases to address the needs it saw in the community. One of those needs, organizers said, was a health center that offers an array of integrated services, including primary care, mental health and substance abuse to the uninsured and underserved residents of the county.

Polk County currently provides space in the Jervey Palmer building on Carolina Drive for mental health services provided by Family Preservation Services. Those services are not offered on a walk-in basis.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson says the county&39;s intent is to have multiple mental health/substance abuse providers in the county and Family Preservation Services will also continue to operate.

The Polk County Health and Wellness Center has a current operating budget of $600,000 per year. The activities of the center will be underwritten by federal, state and local grants, private foundations, individual contributions and revenue generated by fees based on a sliding scale and patients&39; ability to pay. The center has secured a $295,000 grant from the Western Highlands Network to help the program begin.

The center is also submitting a grant application for funds to support a Community Education Project in which the center plans to work through the Polk County School system to identify health issues in students and/or their families and offer them initial treatment at area providers.

The health and wellness center is also working on an application to become a Federal Qualified Health Center, which would enable it to receive an annual stipend that would greatly help to provide long-term sustainability, according to the center&squo;s request to the county.