By Henry Luzzato
The Rockbridge Area Health Center will use a $1 million federal grant to expand its operations.
RAHC CEO Suzanne Sheridan said the organization plans to build four new medical exam rooms and dental facilities, which will add about 4,500 square feet to the health center’s building at 25 Northridge Lane. More space will enable the center to increase the number of patients it can serve from 3,000 to 5,800 by later this year. Construction is slated to begin in the spring.
The health center is short on space. Storage closets have been transformed into offices, and the dental staff is at full capacity. With the expansion, Sheridan says the center plans to add more medical and dental professionals, as well as administrative help.
The RAHC offers services to people of every income level, but most of its clients are those who have low incomes and no insurance and cannot afford a visit to the emergency room.
“We are looking to provide service to a population that maybe traditionally hasn’t sought health care services unless they were really sick,” Sheridan said.
Virginia has not expanded Medicaid, the federal health care program for low-income citizens, making it difficult for some people to afford health care despite the Affordable Care Act. The rural setting of Rockbridge County complicates the accessibility of health care professionals, even for those with insurance. This makes the RAHC a crucial service in the county.
“We try to have our information available and accessible to the people who need it,” said Kelly Balthaser, who supervises RAHC’s enrollment and outreach programs.
Though the RAHC does receive some federal and local funding, it also depends on support from the Rockbridge community. The organization’s signature fundraiser is the Rockbridge Bull and Oyster Fest, which features music, food and drinks. The 10th annual fest will be 1 to 5 p.m. April 2, at the Devil’s Backbone Brewery.
More information about the event is available here: http://rockahc.org/featured-events/bull-oyster-fest