From most locations in northern Gainesville, it’s about a 10-to-12 mile drive to reach a clinic, said Deborah Turnbell, an administrative secretary at Fearnside Family Services Center.
But a new clinic opening in northeast Gainesville should help reduce that commute for many residents.
The clinic is set to open Thursday at the center, located at 3600 NE 15th St. The clinic will be open to the public on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Depending on the demand, additional days may be added, according to the Alachua County Health Department.
“[The clinic] will provide better access for low-income families to get the health care they need, which they wouldn’t necessarily get if we didn’t have one here,” Turnbell said.
The health department and Alachua County Public Schools have been working closely to provide the space and the professionals needed to run the clinic, said Roger Dolz, the health department’s quality improvement program administrator. Part of the public school’s Fearnside building will be used to house the clinic. However, the clinic will be operated by the health department.
The clinic will provide preventative care services including STD screening, immunizations, school physicals and family planning services, Dolz said.
Within the next year, the department hopes to offer additional care including a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and dental care services, he said.
While there are clinics in other areas of Gainesville, there are currently none on the northeast side of the city, Dolz said. To provide better care to those in need, the health department is working to provide satellite clinics, facilities associated with the department, to the outer boundaries of Gainesville.
“The more satellite clinics we have the better we can serve the community,” he said.
Fearnside was built to house a clinic, said Natalie Strappy, director of Alachua County Public Schools Parent Academy.
Physicians will have access to a lab, examination rooms and an office area. The center has been well maintained and will not require any renovations, Strappy said.
“There aren’t any health clinics or availability for immediate health care, if families need care within walking distance,” Strappy said. “This is a perfect opportunity to ensure that those services are provided to families who lack transportation, who lack mobility.”
Marketing will be handled by both agencies to ensure residents in the area are made aware of the health care services available to them, Strappy said. Information will be disseminated through local churches and the center’s school.
The center currently offers prekindergarten/Head Start classes and operates the district’s Parent Academy, a program that empowers and engages parents and their children through education, Strappy said. In the future, the center will also provide GED services and job skills training.
The hope is that individuals participating in the center’s programs will also take advantage of the health care services, she said.
“At the end of the day we want healthy families,” Strappy said. “If we meet those necessities in ensuring our families are healthy, then we can ensure children achieve academically.”
Shawnte Williams, a 31-year-old Gainesville resident and parent, agrees that health care is a vital part of the community.
“It’s especially important to teach children the value of health care so that when they’re adults they can properly care for themselves,” said Williams.
“As adults we often have things wrong and don’t even go check it out.”