Over the past 46 years, a grass-roots clinic for poor patients that started in a church basement off the Drag in 1970 has experienced severe growing pains, including limiting new patients. Now, with a spacious new clinic opening next week, its chief says she expects to serve twice as many needy patients over the next couple of years.
On April 12, People’s Community Clinic will welcome patients to a 59,000-square-foot clinic at 1101 Camino La Costa. It’s more than four times the size of People’s long-standing clinic at 2909 N. Interstate 35 — People’s home since 1993. That building was renovated over the years to double its size, but it still was too cramped for its staffers and the 11,000 patients they see each year.
People’s is a nonprofit that provides health care services to uninsured and underinsured Central Texans.
Initially, its officials planned to close the I-35 clinic, but it will now become People’s Center for Women’s Health. It will provide prenatal care, family planning, well woman exams, cancer screening, sexually transmitted disease services, depression screening and expanded social work support, clinic CEO Regina Rogoff said. Some of those services also will be available in the new space, which is within 2 miles of the homes of about half of People’s patients.
“This has been a dream since the time I started here,” Rogoff said Tuesday as she showed off the bright, modern space that had housed the Texas Real Estate Commission. The two-story building was gutted, leaving two walls standing, said Joy Arthur, People’s director of development and communications.
“It was an awful rabbits’ warren of small spaces and a maze of offices,” Rogoff said.
Former People’s board chairman and architect Milton Hime, along with his firm, Studio8, designed the new clinic, which features abundant windows, large ring-shaped chandeliers and glass outer walls.
“He turned our ugly duckling into a swan of a building,” Rogoff said.
The design work, valued at more than $100,000, was donated, and it enabled People’s to keep the project just under $16 million, Rogoff said. The St. David’s Foundation kicked in $10 million, and other donors gave $5 million, leaving $1 million left to raise.
“It’s all a gift from the community,” Rogoff said.
The clinic will mainly provide primary care, behavioral health services and pediatric care. A few volunteer specialists will provide cardiology, neurology, pediatric endocrinology and orthopedic services. Functions that have been at other Austin sites, such as People’s call center, will be consolidated there.
Visitors might notice an outdoor rain garden as well as indoor space where they can meet, exercise and learn to cook healthy meals.
“Right now, we do cooking classes on a hot plate in a conference room. This is a restaurant-grade kitchen,” Rogoff said, opening the door to a bright classroom, complete with a stove, refrigerator, sink and attractively arrayed shelves holding bowls and cooking implements. “Isn’t it lovely?”
People’s will close Friday and Monday for the move and will discontinue Saturday hours for overflow appointments. It will continue its small clinics at the Manor school district, SafePlace, Austin Children’s Shelter and at the Congregational Church of Austin, where People’s opened in 1970 and which now treats homeless people.