A health center that treats thousands of low-income area residents each year has a new name to go along with its newest location.
Akron Community Health Resources Inc. recently opened its third office: a medical and dental center on Robinson Avenue in Barberton.
The practice joins existing locations in Kent and on Arlington Street in Akron and bears the organization’s new name: AxessPointe Community Health Center.
The agency’s board agreed earlier this year to begin phasing in the name change to reflect its goal of being an access point for people who have trouble getting health care, said Dr. Kristine “Kris” Drummond, the organization’s chief executive.
“Our new name, AxessPointe, clearly describes our goal of accessible care for all,” Dr. Jay Williamson, president of AxessPointe’s board of directors, said in an email.
Mary Ann Gula recently was among the first patients to get her teeth cleaned and a filling repaired at the Barberton center.
Gula, 57, of Barberton, had been getting dental care from the agency’s Akron location for several years.
Because she served in the Army during the Vietnam War, Gula gets medical care through Veterans Affairs. But, she said, she struggled to find affordable dental care.
“It’s good,” she said. “They’re so accommodating.”
About 40 percent of the nearly 13,000 patients treated at AxessPointe’s Akron and Kent offices last year were uninsured. Drummond said she expects the Barberton office will see a similar percentage of uninsured patients.
Patients without insurance pay a sliding scale at all three AxessPointe locations, with the poorest paying a minimum of $25 for medical care and $50 for dental visits.
Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and disabled, covers about 40 percent of the agency’s patients. As a federally qualified health center, AxessPointe receives higher Medicaid payments to help make up for care provided to uninsured patients.
The Barberton office opened on a limited basis last month and plans to offer services from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays beginning in April.
In its first year of operation, the practice expects to provide services to about 4,000 patients, primarily from Barberton, Norton, portions of Akron and surrounding communities.
AxessPointe received $374,000 in federal funding to help launch the Barberton center. The agency targeted the city based on need in the area, Drummond said.
Poverty in area
An estimated 20 percent of Barberton residents live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Per-capita income is $19,221, which falls well below the state average of $25,618.
“With our demographics, providing affordable health care is very needed in our community,” Barberton Mayor Bill Judge said. “This is another great access for our residents.”
Drummond said she anticipates demand for health and wellness services throughout the region to increase in the coming years, when federal health-care reform expands insurance coverage to millions of Americans.
AxessPointe is exploring other potential locations, including Akron’s North Hill neighborhood and the downtown area, Drummond said.
“Our goal is to make sure all of our new ventures are truly meeting the need of our target population, which is the medically underserved,” she said.
As it continues to grow, the agency wants to coordinate all aspects of health and wellness for its patients, Drummond said.
“Instead of ‘air traffic controllers’ we’re the ‘care traffic controllers,’ ” she said.
For example, AxessPointe is forging partnerships with Portage Path Behavioral Health and Child Guidance and Family Solutions — local agencies that receive Summit County taxpayer support — to provide behavioral health services to patients.
In addition, pharmacy students from the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown Township are working with patients to help them manage their medications.
The Barberton location also is finalizing an agreement with Ritzman Pharmacy in the same building to dispense discounted prescriptions for patients through the center’s access to what is known as “340B pricing.”
AxessPointe’s status as a federally qualified health center gives it the ability to buy prescription medicine from drug makers at substantially reduced rates for low-income patients. Qualifying safety-net pharmacies save an average of 25 to 50 percent on prescription drug purchases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Barberton center will house a call center for central scheduling, which will allow patients to have quicker access to services by scheduling for all three locations.
For more information about AxessPointe, call 888-975-9188.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.