A group of physicians plans to build a $2 million health center to provide comprehensive medical, dental and mental health services.
One goal of the Greater Buffalo United Accountable Health Network, a collaboration among eight physician practices, is to use the proposed 28,500-square-foot building off Niagara Street to centralize and expand its health home services.
The health home concept calls for a single organization to coordinate care, including follow-up after medical visits and referrals to social services, for expensive and difficult-to-treat patients.
The project requires approval by the city’s zoning and planning boards, as well as the Common Council. If all goes well, construction could start later this fall with completion in about a year, said Ralph Hernandez, provider relations director for the group.
“With one facility, we can share resources and staff, and coordinate care,” he said.
The health center is proposed for 501 Seventh St., but the front would face Niagara Street, between Jersey and Pennsylvania streets. The facility would share a parking lot with Dr. Raul Vazquez’s Urban Family Practice, one of the physicians in the network and a leader of the initiative. It’s expected to create 75 to 100 jobs.
“We’re trying to expand medical services to the West Side and the minority community in a culturally sensitive way,” Hernandez said. “And, we have an opportunity to create jobs in a neighborhood where the unemployment rate is around 23 percent.”
The physicians would see patients at the new facility but maintain their current offices, he said. The doctors now care for about 1,500 Medicaid patients in the health home program, but Hernandez said the group anticipates attracting many other patients from the surrounding community.
Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen, whose district would include the building, said that, overall, it’s commendable that physicians want to locate on the city’s West Side. However, he said residents are concerned about potential problems from traffic in and out of the facility, especially along Seventh Street.
“The vision is great. In the inner city, we have some of the greatest health care challenges,” he said. “But we have to work on the concerns of the residents and make sure there is time for those concerns to be heard.”
Hernandez said the physician group is aware of the issue, and architectural plans call for traffic to enter and exit off Niagara Street and not 7th.
The Affordable Care Act allowed states to use health homes for coordinating the care for people with Medicaid who have chronic conditions. The state is rolling out health home programs in phases. The Greater Buffalo United Accountable Health Network is one of three initial health home lead organizations that began last year in Erie County.