BOONE — High Country Community Health has expanded after the agency purchased Primedical Healthcare in October.
The federally qualified health center has worked to expand services to underserved communities in the High Country since its founding in 2012, CEO Alice Salthouse said.
“HCCH is extremely grateful for the opportunity to provide care for the communities we serve,” Salthouse said.
In 2010, Salthouse was working as the director of community outreach for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. At the time, North Carolina was in need of affordable and accessible health care as it ranked 36 in the number of community health centers serving the state, she said.
She presented the idea of applying for a federal grant. In 2012 the practice was awarded a $650,000 grant.
“We had 120 days to be up and running,” Salthouse said. “At that point we were just an idea on a piece of paper.”
For six months, HCCH operated within the health departments of Watauga and Avery Counties, and on Jan. 2, 2013, they had their first patient.
“It has been an amazing journey, ever since then,” Salthouse said.
The practice has since expanded into nine locations in four counties in Western North Carolina including one mobile dental unit.
On Jan. 1, 2022, HCCH will assume the independent practice, known as Primedical Healthcare, owned by Nicholas Placentra. Placentra will continue to see patients and work for HCCH on a “reduced schedule.”
“They have a good reputation for their quality measures and — as a community health center — we are highly regulated and observed for 23 different quality measures, so it is amazing that we are moving into this office,” Salthouse said.
HCCH has grown in both staff and clientele. HCCH currently provides medical, dental and behavioral health services to more than 11,000 patients and documented more than 60,000 patient visits in the previous fiscal year.
They currently employ more than 135 staff members who earn a living wage, Salthouse said.
“It’s such a blessing to all of us to all of us that are allowed to work here,” said Leigh Ann Byrd, chief of operations for High Country Community Health.
Some of the services HCCH provide include outreach to migrant farmworkers, Hepatitis C clinics, medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, interpretation services and patient transportation. They are also involved in providing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the community.
“During the straining time of isolation and fear that has been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for providing more and better care to those with low resources is very real,” Salthouse said.
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