Equitas Health is poised to open a medical center and pharmacy in the King-Lincoln District, which some say is a "health-care desert." 

The center, which also will offer dental services, opens May 8 in the Gateway Building at 750 E. Long St. A community open house will be held two days earlier from noon to 3 p.m.

It will be Equitas' second medical/pharmacy site in Columbus.

The first location, which serves several thousand patients, is in the Short North. While that center will remain open, Equitas has outgrown it, said Anna Wuerth, director of health-care operations.

The new site, she said, is in an area rich in history and opportunity. "The sense of community is really strong there," she said. "We're so excited to be part of the district and part of the district revitalization process."

It was a year ago that Equitas announced it was changing its name from the AIDS Resource Center Ohio and expanded its mission to also serve LGBTQ patients and any others seeking a welcoming health-care home, said Bill Hardy, president and chief executive.

Dr. Teresa Long, Columbus health commissioner, said the new center will improve access to high-quality health care in an important neighborhood.

"Residents will now be able to walk to their health-care provider for a comprehensive array of services," she said. "It’s a win-win. Good for the neighborhood and good for the residents."

Hardy said target populations will be African-Americans and LGBTQ patients.

County data collected for Equitas show that there is just one full-time primary care physician per 4,777 people in low-income areas around Columbus, including the King-Lincoln neighborhood.

"We, and others, call neighborhoods like this a health-care desert," Hardy said. "We hope to certainly reduce the ratio of primary health-care providers for the neighbors in that community."

But Annie Womack, chief executive of the Long Street Business Association, disagrees, citing University Hospital East and other facilities.

"We have services, but I don’t think we have specialized services, which this sounds like," she said.

The center will offer HIV and sexually transmitted disease services, but also will provide primary care and behavioral health services, along with dental care and a pharmacy.

Columbus City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson said that HIV and STD services are critical to the Near East Side and surrounding communities, and that she is pleased other services will be provided.

"Access to compassionate, culturally competent health care is critical for each of our residents. Statistics tell us that this is especially true for minority populations, who suffer most from many of the leading health disparities," Tyson said.

Wuerth said the center must get the word out about how services are available to everyone in the community, regardless of income or insurance status.

"We are hoping that individuals who in the past perhaps did not access care as regularly as they want to will have the ability to do so," she said. 

 

jviviano@dispatch.com

@JoAnneViviano