The goal for Susquehanna Community Health and Dental Center is to serve all county residents, whether they have insurance or not.
Although the center has been open since January 2011, it had to wait until December to receive the designation of a federally qualified health center. Before becoming Susquehanna Community, it was a part of Susquehanna Health, said Ellen Krajewski, CEO. But with its goal of being federally qualified, they made the move to separate.
"We needed to be completely independent because our goal is to be a federally qualified health center," she explained.
The center - which employs about 45 individuals - now is an incorporated, non-profit organization, complete with a board of directors. As it is federally qualified, it is required that at least 51 percent of the board be actual patients in order to "ensure we're being responsive to the community."
One aspect of it, the Krajewski is proud of is that the center will see any patient, no matter their insurance status.
"We serve Lycoming County residents, no matter their ability to pay," Krajewski said.
The center uses a sliding-fee scale, based on the individual or family's income, to determine costs for services.
"It's amazing the amount of people that don't have insurance," Krajewski added. "There's such a great need in the county for personal care and dental care for the uninsured as well as new people moving into the county. So we see a huge need to be responsive."
She said being the first of its kind in the community will ensure that all community members are able to get the health and dental care they need. It also allows them to be responsible citizens.
"People are sick and are not able to be responsible citizens," Krajewski said. "Emergency rooms are being use for primary care and that's expensive and it clogs up the emergency room."
Krajewski said going to the emergency room for primary care is an "inadequate way of running one's health."
The service and care it provides its patients is what sets it a part, Krajewski said.
"We go the extra mile for our patients," she said. "We make sure they have their basic needs met. We're in many ways a refuge for patients."
Although they are separate entities now, Krajewski said the center and Susquehanna Health still have a good, working partnership.
"They've been helping us with a large, cash donation," she said.
She added that "we're more sustainable," but have more work to do in order to be fully sustainable.
"We see it as our responsibility to take care of our patients," Krajewski said. "We're putting pieces together to do that."
In the future, Krajewski said the center would like to focus on helping patients prevent acute illnesses so they can focus on "chronic illnesses," like hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
"We would like to expand our ability to help residents manage chronic illnesses," she said.
Improving the county's health and life quality is the business they're in, Krajewski said. And that's the first thing they'll do.
"You can't have a high quality of life when you have people without basic care," Krajewski said.