ESSEX and ESSEX JUNCTION — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased medical costs, physicians retiring and overwhelmed practices, Community Health Centers is hoping to relieve the influx of patients without healthcare providers by opening a location in Essex Junction.
CHC, a non-profit healthcare organization, saw a need for an Essex Junction location and is now accepting new patients at 87 Main Street. Since its opening in August, the center has grown its staff to three clinicians. A fourth starts in November.
“We recognized that Essex actually had the highest number of community health center patients without a physical location, upwards of almost 3,000 patients,” Kimberley Anderson, CHC director of development and communications, told the Reporter.
Essex and Essex Junction patients had previously been traveling to the non-profit’s other locations for care. Eight other health centers are located in medically-underserved areas in Winooski, the Champlain Islands, South Burlington and multiple sites in Burlington, where CHC got its start.
A medically-underserved area does not just mean there are no medical locations in the area. It could also mean the providers in the area do not accept all types of insurance, making the treatments unaffordable for some.
Through American Rescue Plan Act funding, the health care center was able to renovate what was once a UVM internal medicine location and make it into a health center with 12 exam rooms.
The new center is currently surrounded by a tree line of fall foliage. Inside the building with CHC’s new logo, patients can wait in a comfortable waiting room, which will soon be decorated with art by local artists.
“There’s a lot more diversity in Essex, and need,” Anderson said. “We go where the need is. If we recognize that there is an environment that needs our assistance, that’s where we’ll focus.”
CHC works with an integrated care model, so patients can receive treatments from prenatal to elderly care. The centers also have specialists in dentistry, nutrition, psychiatry and behavioral health.
The Essex Junction location does not offer dentistry or prenatal care, but providers can refer patients who need that specific care to other CHC locations.
“It’s nice having that integrated team on site, so that during an appointment I can grab my teammate so that she can come in and get a little bit more information,” said Dr. Christopher Vogt, associate medical director of CHC Essex.
CHC locations must open up in medically underserved areas, but this does not mean their care is subpar or that a person must meet a specific criteria to be a patient, Anderson said. The centers offer a variety of payment options depending on what the individual’s needs are, along with subsidized care.
“We get federal funds to take care of the population that would normally have less access to healthcare,” Anderson said.
Patients do not need to be documented for care and homeless individuals can receive free treatment. Patients can also pay cash the same day they receive a treatment, at a discounted rate.
“We’ll take you how we can get you,” Anderson said. “If you're homeless one day, and a millionaire the next, or vice versa, you still get to keep your same quality doctor period. That's always been our philosophy. We're here when you need us and even when you don't.”
CHC does not provide urgent care and same day appointments. Patients are encouraged to call or go online to schedule an appointment so CHC can ensure there will be enough staff available.