With more than 1,000 patients walking through the doors of Good News Clinics in Gainesville each month, the clinic could use a little extra space.
Thursday morning, supporters and volunteers gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the clinic’s new wing, the G. Warren Thomas Patient Educational Center.
The center is named in honor of the late son of Anne and George Thomas, who have been supporters of the clinic for many years.
The clinic, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is the largest free clinic in the state and serves as a model for clinics around the country.
Care is provided to patients at no charge through 42 physicians and 42 dentist volunteers. More than 300 specialists donate their services to patients through the Health Access program.
According to the clinic’s website, www.goodnewsclinics.org, the clinic’s total value of care provided to the uninsured through its dispensary, dental, Health Access and physician exam programs was more than $29 million last year.
Cheryl Christian, executive director of Good News Clinics, praised the volunteers and supporters for making the program and its continued growth possible.
The 2,000-square-foot expansion will provide patient education classrooms, office space and room for physical therapy programs and individual counseling.
Christian said the clinic has been waiting to add on to its 9,000-square-foot facility off Pine Street in Gainesville for the last five years.
“Right now we’re using our X-ray room that’s not being used for X-rays for our physical therapy volunteers,” Christian said. “We have people scattered all over, so that will be great.”
A donation from the Tull Foundation in Atlanta and an anonymous donor provided the funding for the expansion, which will cost around $250,000. The project will begin Monday morning and is expected to take around three months to complete.
Christian said the extra space will allow the program to help educate more patients about their health and disease prevention.
“This is a big step for us. We’re really excited about it,” Christian said. “Really our focus is helping patients learn some things that they can do for their own health and talking to them. Of course the physician exams and dental exams are important, but what if we can get them to stop smoking or be more active and watch what they’re eating a little closer. So that’s just our focus, to help patients learn things to be healthier but to also be better role models for their children and grandchildren.”
Dr. Richard Bennett, president of the clinic’s leadership board and a volunteer dentist, said he believes prevention, not disease management, is the key to health and is looking forward to the opportunities the new center will provide to the community.
“I think it’s important for the community to know that we’re here and to be a resource for them,” Bennett said. “Whether it’s someone who’s traditionally had health care and lost it or not, but just to know there is a place to go.”