The expansion is part of a partnership with Senior Friendship Center.
CenterPlace Health and Senior Friendship Centers have formed an alliance to try to improve health care for people throughout Sarasota County.
Starting on New Year’s Day, Senior Friendship Centers will lease two health clinics to CenterPlace Health: one at 1888 Brother Geenen Way in Sarasota and another at 2350 Scenic Drive in Venice.
“When COVID-19 hit, [we] realized how could we partner together and what we could provide,” CenterPlace Health CEO Melissa Parker said. “We kind of realized we could probably provide a lot more as a federally qualified health center than the current practice at the Senior Friendship Center, so it’s kind of a win-win for both sides.”
Parker explained how the partnership came about between CenterPlace Health and the Senior Friendship Centers.
“It was just a due diligence between the two of us to say, ‘Hey, what would happen if we merged and pooled our resources together and became the medical and dental portion of Senior Friendship Center?’” Parker said. “It wasn’t rocket science or anything, it was just, ‘How can we collaborate to provide better services to the community?’”
Dr. Neshia McClendon works for CenterPlace Health as a family medicine doctor. She is in the process of changing from CenterPlace Health’s 2200 Ringling Blvd. location to the new standalone clinic on Brother Geenen Way.
“I think it’s beneficial for a lot of the population because the majority of the patients that are seen over at Senior Friendship Center are that of our older population, and they’ve come to develop relationships with a lot of the medical providers that are there,” McClendon said. “I think a lot of times with an older patient, they like to know that continuity will remain.”
The expansion will give CenterPlace Health five clinics throughout Sarasota County. CenterPlace Health says the expansion will also provide high-quality, low-cost health care to thousands of people throughout the county. It is also expected to help alleviate some of the pressures at CenterPlace Health’s North Port Health Center at 6950 Outreach Way.
“Moving over there will give us that standalone presence that we will have and need, so that our community and populations that we serve can start to recognize CenterPlace Health for the company that it truly is,” McClendon said.
McClendon said many people think CenterPlace operates as part of the Department of Health Health, which it doesn’t, even though they share the same building at 2200 Ringling Blvd.
“In my opinion, that’s one of the things that CenterPlace Health needed to really show the name of who we are because of the confusion of ‘Oh, it’s the health department,’” McClendon said. “And truthfully, although we’re in the building, our companies are run completely different.”
The partnership is also expected to address unmet needs in mid- and south Sarasota County, where studies show there are health professional shortage areas, a designation of health care shortages in primary care, dental health and mental health.
Parker said there is a demand for better health care access in south Sarasota County.
“That’s a problem throughout the country,” Parker said. “Not many people understand or know what health centers can provide.”
McClendon said she believes cities should have access to health care along bus routes.
“We can’t assume that everyone has a car,” McClendon said. “We can’t assume that everyone has adequate transportation, but we can assume one doesn’t have transportation, [that] a lot of time they may utilize the city bus transit or city transit to get around.”
McClendon said she has patients who take multiple buses from as far as Venice or Manatee County to come see her.
“That partnership [with Senior Friendship Centers], it couldn't have come at a better time when patients are struggling more with behavioral health issues with the pandemic, with patients that have lost their jobs,” McClendon said. “That's one of the most heart-wrenching things to see.”
CenterPlace Health’s website states fees are not increasing because of the new expansion. Parker said CenterPlace Health has access to a sliding-fee scale where patients can get care based on their income with a minimum payment of $10.
“This strategic alliance will continue to save taxpayers by providing a medical home to low- and no-income adults and reducing costly emergency room visits,” Senior Friendship Centers CEO Erin McLeod said in a news release.
McLeod said CenterPlace Health patients will be able to participate at Senior Friendship Centers to reinforce their well-being, which includes educational classes, exercise, meals, socialization and other actives to maintain physical and mental health.