Relocation set for June 15, but funding cuts could delay some services

The Petaluma Health Center is set to move into a much larger, renovated facility on North McDowell Boulevard within two weeks that will provide space for it to vastly expand its services, but federal and state cutbacks are likely to cause some delays.

"They will slow us down a little bit. We will need to provide services in a little bit different way than we planned, such as be creative in how we handle group visits, but we'll still do what we want to do," said Kathryn Powell, the PHC's executive director. "We will look to provide the most cost-effective care we can, which is better for the patient, anyway. The more cost-efficient we are, the better care we give patients."

The extent of the federal and state cutbacks, and how they would affect the health center, have not been determined. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would have cut $1.3 billion from community health centers. The U.S. Senate rejected the bill in March, but some additional cutbacks still are anticipated. The state Legislature approved some Medi-Cal cuts in March, and more are being proposed in Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget.

"We're &‘sitting on the edges of our seats,' but won't know how the health center will be affected until the final budget is passed," Powell said, regarding the state budget situation.

On June 15, the health center will relocate from 1301 Southpoint Blvd. to a building that provides 53,000 square feet of space — more than three times the current total —?at 1179 N. McDowell Blvd. This will provide enough room for the PHC to immediately serve as the "medical home" to 21,000 people, 5,000 more than the current total, and after additional construction is done at the building, it will be able to accommodate 35,000 patients.

The many changes planned at the health center have attracted plenty of attention locally, as well as nationally. In April, the Washington Post and National Public Radio devoted articles on their websites to the PHC's integrative medicine program. These articles later were republished by more than 40 health and news websites in the United States and Europe.

"We feel that we're at the leading edge of transforming health care. We're very proud of what we do," Powell said.

The hours of operation at the North McDowell Boulevard building will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. A grand opening celebration is planned for Aug. 12.

The new building will enable the PHC to increase the number of medical exam rooms from 31 to 44, dental exam rooms from three to nine and employees from 115 to 150. The health center plans to utilize this additional space to expand its current efforts to blend traditional Western medicine with alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and massage.

Also, as part of the medical home model that the PHC provides, patients will be able to utilize the expertise of multiple health-care specialists during each visit.

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