Central Health partnership will bring new clinic to southeast Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- A brand new model of care will bring the first and only full-time primary health care clinic to as many as 35,000 residents of southeast Travis County.

Central Health, the University of Texas at Austin's School of Nursing and Travis County Emergency Services District 11 announced they are working together to open the health care center before the end of 2018.

The family clinic is part of Central Health's larger effort to expand health care services in sections of the county that have long been known as health care deserts.

"Central Health's recent demographic report confirms more and more people with low income are living in -- or moving to -- the eastern parts of Travis County because Austin is becoming less and less affordable," said Mike Geeslin, Central Health president and CEO, in a statement. "As the population increases, residents need access to health care and pharmacies, transportation and groceries. Central Health is working with several partners to address these needs -- we will only solve these challenges with our partners."

The collaborative effort was brought together by Commissioner Margaret Gomez in an effort to improve the quality of life for her constituents.

"I don't know that we could do anything without good health and as long as we have that in place, we can achieve a lot of things. But, to achieve prosperous lives, Travis County residents must first be able to achieve healthy lives," Commissioner Gomez said. "This new partnership will do exactly that. By providing closer access to health care, families can focus on what's important - their children and their education, as well as their jobs."

The collaboration is one that is also expected to be more affordable overall, as well.

"Since there are no primary health care services in southeast Travis County, oftentimes 911 becomes the primary health care provider," said Fire Chief Ken Bailey. "About 80 percent of what we do is EMS and of that, a small number of those calls really are emergent calls."

Chief Bailey said a majority of what the fire station sees every year are small, minor medical events that in many cases, could be better taken care of in a clinic or primary health care setting. "At the end of the day, that's a really expensive way of getting health care. This might provide an opportunity for us to reduce health care costs while also improving the quality of care and the quality of living for people in southeast Travis County."

As part of the project, Bailey says Travis County Fire Rescue will re-purpose portions of the existing fire station located at 9019 Elroy Rd. in Del Valle to serve as the medical clinic, utilizing funding identified by Central Health and medical staff provided by the UT School of Nursing.

Currently, the only health care facility in southeastern Travis County is a part-time clinic just east of the airport. The new service area could cover 66,000 people if patients from Bastrop and Caldwell counties utilized the services as well.

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