New medical center targets King-Lincoln "health care desert"

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Friday morning neighbors in the King-Lincoln district welcomed a new health center.

The Equitas Health Center will provide health care and a pharmacy to the neighborhood.

The neighborhood is one of the "health care deserts" in central Ohio; areas without access to preventative care.

"When we think about health care desert, we're really talking about access to care, and access to affordable care," Anna Wuerth, Director of Health Care Operations for Equitas Health said. "So people who are lower-income or perhaps don't have insurance coverage, or are on Medicaid for instance, there may be a lack of providers who are willing to provide that care to them."

For long-time King-Lincoln resident Lela Boykin the health center is a welcome addition. She has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 45 years. Over the years she's watched the neighborhood recede, and in recent years, regain glimmers of its former vitality.

"I used to have a primary care physician that I saw on Long Street and watched as they progressively either retired or closed their practices and moved other places. And so we lost a lot of primary health care physicians in this neighborhood" Boykin said.

Boykin added that she's seen the lack of preventative care take a toll on her neighbors.

"The big thing I see is there's no prevention," Boykin said. "So people use the emergency rooms for primary health care, which puts an increased demand and pressure on emergency rooms."

The addition of the health center will bring those critical services to residents.

"We have dental on-site, we have primary care providers, an on-site pharmacy, therapy services, case management," said Wuerth. "If we can do more preventive care earlier on, and help prevent some of these conditions, that's our goal. That's the impact we want to have."

The City of Columbus is contributing $150,000 to the operation of the new medical center.

Equitas is holding an open house for the community Saturday from 12-3 p.m. The center will start seeing patients on May 11.