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Health care centers mark milestone

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Tammy Bone Kiger, MD, checks Tamara Dew’s heart Friday at Harvest Family Health Center in Elm City.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A regional health care system is celebrating a quarter of a century seeing masses of patients without them having to worry about pocketbook issues when needing attention, checkups or treatment.

“We like to say we can service anyone that needs access to quality primary medical care, but health centers are uniquely positioned to help individuals of low income — and individuals without insurance,” said Laura Owens, 40, CEO of Carolina Family Health Centers.

Carolina Family Health Centers turned 25 at the start of this month.

Carolina Family Health Centers is a nonprofit organization based in Wilson. It operates Wilson Community Health Center as well as Harvest Family Health Center and Carolina Family Dental Center in Nash County.

Carolina Family Health Centers also operates Freedom Hill Community Health Center in the Princeville area.

All three locations offer comprehensive primary medical care, including behavioral health services, pediatrics, pharmacy services, prescription delivery and transportation. The Nash County location is the lone one of three offering dental services.

Owens said all services are provided on a sliding fee discount program, with fees lowered based on the patient’s ability to pay for the services.

Owens told the Telegram that Carolina Family Health Centers saw more than 17,000 patients last year.

Owens said about 75 percent of the patients come from Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties, but that patients also come from surrounding counties, including Wake, Johnston, Pitt and Wayne counties.

She said some of the patients from the outlying areas come because of the Ryan White Program, which enables Carolina Family Health Centers to receive federal and state funds to treat patients infected with HIV or AIDS.

“Some of it is convenience for patients, word of mouth,” she said. “Patients do like our providers. When you create a relationship with a medical provider, patients tend to stay loyal to the providers.”

Carolina Family Health Centers has more than 200 employees.

As for the next 25 years, Owens said, “Our desire is to continue to service the community in the same way or in unique and different ways as the needs of our community evolve.

“We do look at the information available around our communities and we try to deliver services that meet those needs,” she said. “So I hope we’re here and continue to be here and are continuing to thrive in the community and help those in and around Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties.”

Owens said the history of Carolina Family Health Centers can be traced to 1993, when a group of community-minded individuals in Wilson County recognized about 37 percent of Medicaid recipients there lacked a primary medical provider.

Owens also said the emergency room at the hospital in Wilson was being used quite a bit for primary care.

Owens said after a committee was formed and research was conducted, a facility was built from the ground up in Wilson.

Harvest Family Center and Carolina Family Dental Center presently are located along N.C. 58 between Wilson and Nashville.

The origins of Harvest Family Center can be traced to the 1980s, when a small band of Catholic nuns assisted migrant farm workers and their families with their health care needs.

During the 1990s, the state Office of Rural Health and the Nash County Health Department donated a trailer and staff to create the Nash County Migrant Center.

In 1998, Carolina Family Health Centers took over the center and expanded operations. Eventually the center relocated to larger facilities.

The Freedom Hill Community Health Center was built from the ground up in 2005.

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris said of Carolina Family Health Centers, “It’s an impressive organization that is dedicated to the service of those who oftentimes struggle to get quality health care.”

Farris made clear he is impressed with the location in Nash County.

“They’re open to all of us,” Farris said. “It’s not just limited to them, but certainly it’s more readily available to that segment of our population that primarily works in agriculture. But they spared no expense, cut no corners and are very dedicated to providing both dental and medical and pharmaceutical care and coverage for those that need it.”

Nash County Manager Zee Lamb told the Telegram, “It’s no secret that we have a strong health care community here in Nash County — and that is one component that we’re happy about.

“And we’re very happy that they’re here and they continue to serve the people of our county,” Lamb said.