Central Health, through a partnership with the University of Texas’ School of Nursing and Travis County Emergency Services District 11, will open a clinic in Del Valle by the end of 2018.
Central Health, Travis County’s health care district, will likely repurpose a 5,000-square-foot building next to the ESD 11 fire station at 9019 Elroy Road for the clinic, officials said. It will offer primary care, behavioral health and dental care.
“Our board really made this a priority and mandate for Central Health because they recognize the lack of services in southeast Travis County,” Wallace said. “So we wanted to have a significant response to these needs.”
Larry Wallace, Central Health’s enterprise chief administrative officer, said Thursday the agency is still working out the details of a lease as well as the possibility of building an addition. Wallace said he hopes to have a proposal in front of the board of managers in the next three months.
The UT Nursing School will provide primary care services, and Wallace said the agency is working on securing behavioral and dental care partners. He said they hope to one day add other services, such as a pharmacy.
Eastern Travis County residents have for years decried the lack of health centers in the area after a CommUnityCare clinic in Del Valle abruptly closed in mid-2016. The nearest clinic for adults is about 10 miles away.
A group of those residents announced they were suing Central Health last summer, alleging that the agency is misspending tax dollars that should be going toward its mission of providing health care for low-income residents.
The opening of the clinic is part of Central Health’s latest initiative to increase services to the area. The first project kicked off last summer when officials announced a partnership with Travis County to share its Employee Healthcare Clinic site on FM 973 for two days a week.
The nearby Children’s Wellness Clinic near Del Valle Elementary School provides health care to low-income residents for but only treats patients up to age 21. The new clinic will serve children and adults.
“You can imagine how difficult it is when sick parents and grandparents come to our clinic with sick children, but we’re limited on what we can do for the adults,” said Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the nursing school, in a news release. “Now we can offer a medical home for the entire family.”
The children’s clinic, which is about 1,500 square feet and contains four patient rooms, has about 5,000 patient visits a year, said Stephanie Morgan, director of practice innovation at the nursing school. Morgan said the new clinic will have eight rooms, allowing for double the amount of patients.
Del Valle resident Richard Franklin, who has been a vocal critic of Central Health and is a plaintiff in the suit against the agency, said that while he applauds the agency, a year is a long time to wait.
“The faster we can get that, the more I’m going to applaud it,” Franklin said. “It’s not enough, but at least it’s a relief.”
Franklin added that the clinic is only a “scraping of the surface.” The area still lacks adequate transportation to get to the clinic and pharmacies to get prescriptions filled, he said.
ESD 11 Fire Chief Ken Bailey said 80 percent of what the Fire Department handles is medical care, and being a part of the clinic will help smooth out the delivery of care to those patients. One such way is redirecting patients who might be seeking out emergency care when what they really need is regular primary care, he said.
“We operate in a silo: We only deal with emergent incidents,” Bailey said. “We look at it and we say … ‘Can we not team up and have some combination of efforts towards prevention?’”
Note: This article has been updated to correct the square-footage of the Children’s Wellness Clinic and to reflect the number of patient visits the clinics receives.