INDIANAPOLIS — When Jimmy Brown came to Indianapolis from Kansas City to scour the city’s impoverished areas for a location to open a healthcare facility, he said it seemed like fate.
Temporarily living in an apartment complex near 21st Street and High School Road, he began scouting the city. In the end, he didn’t have to go far to find a landing spot for HealthNet West.
Serving more than 51,000 families on an annual basis, a significant amount of people on the westside are about to see their health care options expand with the new facility.
Opening Jan. 7, at the former Blockbuster Video building at 6029 W. 10th St., HealthNet West Health Center is expected to provide care to those who are uninsured or cannot afford service, which makes up more than 60 percent of the service area population. No one will be turned down because of an inability to pay and people from across the state are welcome.
“What really happened is that I lived on the west side in a corporate apartment,” said Brown, president and CEO of the HealthNet West Center, “and I would drive through these poor and underserved neighborhoods and thought it was physically such a need. We were so blessed that it came to pass that I lived in that neighborhood. Now the clinic is a reality. Actually living in the neighborhood and the clinic timing was good fortune.”
The HealthNet West center will be the 18th such facility in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. It will offer adult primary care, pediatrics, OB/GYN services, as well as podiatry, optometry, social work, and behavioral health services. There will be access to prescriptions that are discounted as well as advice counseling regarding nutrition and smoking cessation.
“There’s a high rate of poverty and uninsured in that area and there’s a real need,” Brown said. “We expect to be at capacity whenever we’re open. We’re really trying to go geographically where there are these needs. Quite frankly, it could have been on the east side. The need was there for it, and we always anticipate serving a very needy population.”
The 501 (c)3 non-profit health center actually came to fruition because of a $900,000 grant that was given this past June via the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, made possible by the newly passed into law Affordable Care Act. A $312,000 renovation was needed to the building before opening it.
Brown adds that the clinic appointment schedule is already filling up, indicating just how badly such a place was necessary.
“Folks are happy that we’re there,” he said. “There’s a demand for the services. It’s easily accessible and folks don’t have to travel out of the community. It’s in their own back yard.”
Lead physician Varon Cantrell came to the location from the Southwest HealthNet center, and says he’s thrilled to be here.
“The first thing I always start by saying is that I really love HealthNet in general,” Cantrell said. “The opportunity to come out to this community for service is what excites me. I believe I’ve been put on this Earth to be a servant and I just look forward to bringing what we do at HealthNet to the west side of town.”
Cantrell said there is a collaboration between the HealthNet center and IU Health West Hospital in Avon in the works where HealthNet will be able to take care of some of the hospital’s patients.
The hours for the health center are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and medical services are guaranteed to be delivered, regardless of an ability to pay. The cost of care is determined on a sliding fee scale and overall family income.
Brown said many of the medical professionals working there received help paying for school, a benefit to working in the HealthNet system.
Same-day appointments will be available at HealthNet West.
The roots of HealthNet in the Indianapolis community actually date back to 1968, when the first facility was opened. Over the years, 75 percent of its clients have lived at or below the federal poverty level. The need for expansion hit a crescendo in 2010, when the facilities across the state accounted for 225,987 patient visits.
The facility is 4,500 square feet, however, there is an additional 2,000 square feet they hope to add on as it becomes necessary. It is behind the Wendy’s restaurant on 10th Street, across from Lowe’s.
There will be an open house for the community to meet Cantrell and the staff from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17.
For more information on HealthNet care centers, visit the website at indyhealthnet.org or call 782-2121 to make an appointment.