New clinic to open for ‘gap generation’

The WellStar clinic at the new Cobb Senior Wellness Center is intended for residents between the ages 55 and 64, people who Cobb Senior Services Director Pam Breeden said are often retired but too young for Medicare.

“It’s kind of called the ‘gap’ generation,” Breeden said. “Often people retire fully believing they are equipped for retirement, but their investments went south or the company they work for no longer provides benefits for retirees.”

The clinic, which will open on Aug. 30, the day after the ribbon- cutting on the senior center, will provide free services to Cobb County residents in that age group with incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee and WellStar Chief Executive Officer Reynold Jennings will have a signing ceremony for the agreement at 2 p.m. today at the new senior services campus in the former Powder Springs Station shopping center, 1150 Powder Springs St. in Marietta.

The low-income clinic will be the third for WellStar Health System, along with locations at Kennestone and Cobb hospitals, but the first aimed exclusively at seniors, Breeden said. The county renovated the building and is providing the space for the clinic at a lease of $1 a year, but WellStar will run and staff the facility and be responsible for paying utility bills.

The county and health care system will work together, Breeden said. Clinic staff could tell a patient who is borderline for diabetes that he or she needs to lose weight. The patient could then take exercise or nutrition classes the county will offer at the wellness center.

“It’s a reciprocal type arrangement,” Breeden said.

Among the services offered at the clinic will be checkups and immunizations, Breeden said. It will also offer services like vision and hearing screenings that aren’t offered by Medicare or Medicaid. Those will also be offered to older users of the senior wellness center, which Breeden said could see 10,000 users a month.

Like with the other two WellStar community clinics, the new location will be overseen by Dr. Allen Hoffman, the system’s executive director of community health care. Eventually, it will have five employees: two nurse practitioners, a registered nurse, a medical assistant and a secretary.

“This is a totally innovative product,” Hoffman said. “There’s really nothing like it in the state of Georgia.”

Currently, those eligible to use the clinic will need to have individual income no greater than around $10,800 or $44,000 for a family of four, Hoffman said.

“It’s really for the poor of the poor,” he said. “We in Cobb County don’t really feel like we have a significant issue here, but we do.”

The county paid $5.75 million for the blighted 89,000-square-foot shopping center in June 2009. The senior wellness center itself is expected to cost about $2.7 million, with $1 million coming from the 2011 SPLOST 1 percent sales tax. The remaining money comes from insurance money and other funds the county received as a result of the 2009 flooding of the former Austell Neighborhood Senior Center.

Because the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development wouldn’t give funding to the wellness center because of Sept. 11-related laws that prevent allocating HUD money to projects located in flight paths, the county switched money with funds designated for the Austell center, which reopened in April at a new location.

Hoffman expects the clinic to cost WellStar between $400,000 and $500,000 a year to operate.

“From a county perspective, it’s very proactive,” he said. “From WellStar’s standpoint, it fits right in with our mission of providing world class health care at an affordable price.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, July 12, 2012. Written by Geoff Folsom. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – New clinic to open for ‘gap generation’ )

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