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Kittitas Valley residents in need of affordable health care now have a more accessible option right in their backyard.

Community Health of Central Washington recently opened a sparkling new dental facility on Mountain View Avenue, and also revamped their existing medical facility on the site. The property celebrated the opening with an open house earlier this month and was met with a robust turnout. CHCW Chief Operating Officer Millard McQuaid said they estimated approximately 300 community members attended the event.

“We were very happy with the attendance,” he said. “It was a great turnout from the community to support us in opening the new site.”

The property on Mountain View has been owned and partially occupied by CHCW since 2008. Prior to the construction, buildings on the lot were occupied the Department of Licensing, the Fraternal Order of Eagles and CHCW’s medical and Women Infants and Children Nutrition program center. CHCW previously housed its dental program in a rented space on Dollarway Road since 2009, but McQuaid said the program had quickly outgrown the space.

“There is a large need in both Kittitas and Yakima counties to address needs in the Medicaid population when it comes to dental,” he said. “We were able to combine that site and our medical site at Mountain View and increase our number of chairs from four to 10.”

The facilities managed by CHCW are part of a federally funded program that designate them as Federally Qualified Health Centers due to the fact that their primary purpose is to provide services to members of the community who have Medicaid and Medicare health coverage, or even no coverage at all. Due to this, the facility was built with the aid of both federal and state grants totaling $2.7 million. The project in total cost $5.5 million.

McQuaid said the planning and permitting process for the new facility began in mid-2016, with construction beginning in spring 2018. Major construction finished up in July, although some renovation projects were ongoing within the medical side of the property. The property was completely finished by the end of October, prompting the grand opening ceremony earlier this month.

Along with the construction itself, the federal funding for the project also included purchasing new equipment for both facilities. A quiet room was added to the facility to help with younger patients, as well as dedicated facilities to conduct X-ray and phlebotomy-related services onsite. Three new exam rooms were added to the medical facility, as well as expanded nursing stations. McQuaid said being able to offer the laboratory services on the same site helps patients at both facilities.

“We were a little compressed before to get all that stuff into a full laboratory clinic,” he said. “We now have the room and can provide the integration between medical and dental. It ends up being more of a one stop shop.”

Although CHCW is based out of Yakima, Ellensburg is their sole dental facility. McQuaid said although the demand for Medicaid-based services is large in both Yakima and Kittitas counties is large, their dental facility is the only one in Kittitas County.

“Where the real need is, where nobody was doing any sort of Medicaid dental services was in Kittitas County,” he said. “That’s why we decided to move forward on that practice.”

Some medical providers decline patients on Medicaid or Medicare due to the low compensation they receive from the program, but because CHCW is federally subsidized, McQuaid said they are able to serve anyone regardless of ability to pay.

“We act as a safety net provider for Kittitas County.”

With the new facility up and running, McQuaid said CHCW is on track to achieve the mission they set out on by getting started in Kittitas County a decade ago. In doing so, he said a great need can be met in the community.

“I think it’s critical to the success of the economy of the county,” he said. “These are people who would otherwise potentially not seek health care and end up with hospitalizations, higher levels of care or not seek care at all. In order to keep a healthy population especially in a rural county, having a safety net clinic is crucial.”

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