Cassopolis Family Clinic plans to enlarge its 1960 buildingPublished 4:33pm Wednesday, October 7, 2009
By JOHN EBY
CASSOPOLIS – A physical expansion in the Cass County seat and operational growth in Niles lie ahead of 45-year-old Cassopolis Family Clinic, according to its executive director.
Besides enlarging its 1960 building, Cassopolis Family Clinic plans collaborations with Woodlands Behavioral Health Care and Rite Aid. The pharmacy program would enable the uninsured to receive prescriptions at cost.
In Niles, “We would like, in the same building we are in now, to create a primary care clinic,” Mary Middleton said. “Currently in Niles, there are no providers who offer reduced fees based on ability to pay. Southwestern Medical Clinic, which is the largest provider of primary care and the largest provider of care for Medicaid patients, is not accepting new patients. There is a need there that we’re going to try to meet,” she advised the Cass County Board of Commissioners Oct. 1.
She recalled such prominent Cassopolis names as Dr. Aaron Warren, Tom McCauslin and George Gohn as part of the “group here in town” which established the clinic and recruited physicians.
What is now classified as a community health center separated from Lakeland Regional Health System to be governed by its own 10-member board of directors.
Fifty-one percent of the board must be patients so it delivers “patient-driven” care.
“It’s been under different ownership models,” Middleton said. “We collaborate with (Lakeland) and they still provide some financial assistance.”
What distinguishes a community health center is that “it’s all about creating access to medical care,” she explained. “We serve all of Cass County and southeast Berrien County. We take all payers – commercial insurance and payers other private practices can’t afford to take. We take Medicare for seniors. We take Medicaid for the poor. And we take uninsured. Many private practices don’t do that or, if they do, they ask you to pay the full amount.”
Cassopolis Family Clinic also accepts Berrien County Health Plan cards.
“Many people come from Berrien County to our office here in Cassopolis,” she said, “because there aren’t enough providers in Berrien.”
On-site enrollment is offered for uninsured patients, so they can sign up for Medicaid or MIChild, a low-cost health insurance program for uninsured children of Michigan’s working families.
“That coverage is very affordable,” Middleton said. “We also have a breast and cervical cancer control program, which provides female exams and mammography for uninsured women who are older than 40 and less than age 65. We also participate with Plan First, which is a pregnancy prevention program for uninsured women. We can sign people up for those programs right at our office” at 109 School St., on the corner with N. Broadway by Clisbee Park. In fact, the clinic sits on village-owned property.
“It was leased practically 50 years ago for $1 a year for 99 years. We’ve approached the village and they’ve agreed to allow us to expand. We’re creating a plan for that. By virtue of being a non-profit, we may actually qualify for grants from USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Rural Development).”
“One of the great things about a community health center is that we are able, because of federal funding, to offer reduced fees for people who have limited or no ability to pay. Sixty-eight percent of our new patients – three out of five – can hardly afford to pay for their medical care. The number of people in their family and their income qualifies them for our minimum fee, which is $20.”
Cassopolis Family Clinic, besides being an “economic engine” with its 32 fulltime employees and nine part-time employees between Cassopolis and Niles, “creates access for obstetrical and gynecological services at our office in Niles,” which is located next door to the former Chuck Day music store, across St. Joseph Avenue from the hospital.
“Right now, we take Medicaid and uninsured at that office,” Middleton said. “Last year at that office we provided 543 deliveries. This year, we’re on target to do 600. It’s a very, very busy office. In addition to that, in January we added maternal infant health, a fabulous program that fits hand in hand with obstetrical care. It provides nurses, nutritionists and social workers to work with poor women, homeless women, women on drugs and in abusive relationships – things you and I didn’t grow up with.
Cassopolis Family Clinic contracts with Southwestern Medical Clinic for obstetrical services.