Just a year after nearly closing its doors, the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics is planning to open two new health-care facilities in the Goleta area.
SBNC has signed a letter of intent for a dental clinic facility in Old Town near the intersection of Hollister and Kinman avenues, and has plans to open a medical clinic on Calle Real at Kellogg Avenue.
The medical clinic will have six exam rooms, like the facilities in Santa Barbara and Isla Vista, and potential for growth, CEO Trula Breuninger said.
This expansion from four clinics to six was facilitated by federal Health Resources and Services Administration funding, and SBNC opened a small, temporary medical clinic at 334 S. Patterson Ave. in the meantime.
The Goleta clinic opened its doors to patients on Monday, months later than expected.
“The government bureaucracy is very challenging,” Breuninger said.
The clinics held a grand opening on March 7, but the approvals for licensing and facility improvements didn’t come through until last week.
Outreach workers such as Rodolfo Herrera have been going door-to-door for two months, telling Goletans about the clinic. Herrera said his visits have been educating people about the new location and checking in on their health needs.
“We’ve done a lot of outreach and we won’t have any problem with patients,” Breuninger said. “After all, there are some people who have gone to other clinics but live in the area and want to utilize those services.”
SBNC did market research a few years ago that found a serious health-care gap in Goleta, particularly with low-income residents.
The research found that, of the people who make 200 percent (or less) of the federal poverty level, 70 percent of them don’t use county health resources or the Neighborhood Clinics, said Dr. Charles Fenzi.
SBNC serves 17,000 patients per year on the South Coast, and if they closed, Cottage CEO Ron Werft has said, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital would have to erect “surge tents” in the parking lots to handle the influx of emergency department patients.
Fenzi, the chief medical officer for SBNC who sees patients at the Westside and Goleta locations, gave Noozhawk a tour of the temporary location, which will have one full-time medical provider and a behavioral health coordinator on staff at all times. There is also a lab on-site.
As a licensed behavioral-health facility, the Goleta clinic can integrate care for substance-abuse and mental-health issues with its medical care, Fenzi said.
Licensed clinical social worker Jennifer Ferraez hopes the approach can help people form long-term relationships with their providers.
Her background in street medicine taught her how critical it is to meet patients where they are, she said.
Having behavioral-health resources in the same place as medical care helps treat the whole person, “instead of decapitating someone and sending the head to one place and the body to another,” she said.
More open-minded providers are letting her into the “sacred space” of the exam room to help with patients, she added.
People at the Goleta clinic are focusing on preventive care and want to help divert some patients from the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s emergency room, which is just across the street from the clinic.
Preventive care saves the health-care system a lot of money and is more humane, Ferraez said. It’s also a focus of the new Affordable Care Act guidelines.
“We can train people that they don’t need to go to the emergency department for everything — they can come here,” Fenzi said.
Family medicine nurse practitioner Renae O’Keeffe is working full-time at the Goleta facility, and there will be specialists — such as popular pediatric physician Dr. Andria Ruth — working there a few days per week.
“You never know what’s going to come in the door and that keeps it exciting,” O’Keeffe said.
The Goleta Neighborhood Clinic is located at 334 S. Patterson Ave., Suite 203. It offers low-cost medical services including family medicine, pediatric care, women’s health, family planning, cancer detection, diabetes/nutrition services, HIV/Hepatitis C testing, urgent care, vaccinations and behavioral health.
It accepts Medi-Cal, Medicare, Healthy Kids, FamilyPACT, EWC/CDP, CHDP and various PPO plans, including Covered California insurance coverage.
The hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for Mondays and Fridays; 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.