Editor’s note: This story by Nora Doyle-Burr first appeared in the Valley News on July 22.
The White River Junction-based Good Neighbor Health Clinic, which provides medical and dental care for uninsured or under-insured people in the Upper Valley, has signed a three-year lease on a space in Lebanon, New Hampshire, the clinic’s director said.
“This is something that the board has been looking at and planning for three years and the right place came along,” Dana Michalovic, executive director at Good Neighbor Health Clinic and Red Logan Dental Clinic.
The goal of the new 1,400-square-foot site on Hanover Street is to increase the number of patients the clinic can provide with medical care, as well as to increase the number of volunteers, including students from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and residents at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
“I think that the growth will be organic,” Michalovic said. “... This program will build as demand builds and our ability to recruit volunteers and hire staff (grows).”
Michalovic noted that though plans for the Lebanon clinic have been in the works for years, they are coming to fruition at a time when health care has become increasingly hard to come by.
“Access to care is very difficult in the Upper Valley right now,” she said. “Between Covid and difficulty accessing care — especially primary health care — we have seen an increase in demand.”
Michalovic said she anticipates that the proximity of the new site, 103 Hanover Street, to Route 120 and bus stops will help attract new patients, including those from Claremont. Sullivan County Transportation launched a bus route between Lebanon and Claremont last summer. Currently, one-quarter of Good Neighbor’s approximately 1,000 patients are from Hartford and one-quarter from Lebanon, with the remainder from surrounding areas, she said.
“We really want to be able to have people who live outside of those two core towns to be able to access us easily,” she said.
In addition, having a location in New Hampshire will make it easier for providers who are licensed in the Granite State to provide care, she said.
For several years, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon has allowed Good Neighbor to use space at APD to host satellite clinics, Michalovic said. This new lease gives Good Neighbor a space of its own.
Initially, the new space will rely on volunteers to be open with limited hours, offering the same specialty clinics that currently happen at APD, Michalovic said. Those clinics include dermatology, women’s health and primary care. The new space also is slated to include a suite for ophthalmology. Good Neighbor is planning to buy equipment from New London Hospital, which announced last summer it would discontinue its ophthalmology service.
Michalovic anticipates it will open in late September or early October, depending on the speed of some renovations to the former Allstate insurance office. She has applied to the city for a building permit. Plans for the space include new flooring, electrical work and plumbing. These days, she said, “when it comes to construction there’s just a longer wait time.”
Dartmouth Health has provided a $15,000 donation to support the new clinic, it announced in a Tuesday press release. The Mascoma Bank Foundation also has provided funding for the project, Michalovic said.
“Good Neighbor Health Clinics is a true partner and a vital asset in the Upper Valley to make sure there is high-quality, equitable care for all,” Barbara Farnsworth, director of community health partnerships at Dartmouth Health, said in the DH release. “We are proud to support their mission and work through this donation.”
If all goes as planned, Michalovic said at the end of three years, “I would envision us renewing that lease.”
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