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story.lead_photo.caption Kyra Clevenger, left, director of compliance, and Jeff Davis, CEO of Community Health Center of Central Missouri, talk about the health center's upcoming move into the new location at 1511 Christy Drive. Construction is still underway, but soon the office personnel, doctors and nurses will be moving into the building. Photo by Julie Smith / California Democrat.

Not that workers weren't already busy there, but activity at the new home of the Community Health Center of Central Missouri has picked up recently.

Crews with Septagon Construction Co., the company remodeling the center's new site, earlier this year concentrated on preparing the third floor of the building at 1511 Christy Drive for the arrival of administrators, who moved their offices to the site this month. The center's administrative offices historically have not been in the same building as the clinic. Moving forward, they will be.

The move signals that a series of dominoes will begin tipping shortly — possibly as soon as mid-May.

That's when Community Health Center could complete its move into the 27,000-square-foot building, nearly a month earlier than expected.

Cole County officials announced in December 2016 the county would buy the health center's old site at 3400 W. Truman Blvd., for $1.5 million, to house the county health department. Once the Cole County Health Department moves out of its current facility at 1616 Industrial Drive, the county will put that structure up for sale.

The county health department will increase its footprint from about 7,700 square feet to about 17,000 square feet and will have room for more parking and a JeffTran bus stop.

Jeff Davis, Community Health Center's executive officer, said federal grant money has helped offset some of the cost to move into a larger facility.

"This space allows us to grow and expand," Davis said. "The big focus will be the women's health and pediatrics expansion."

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The new site will allow the facility to double the size of its dental facilities.

The second floor of the new site is designed to house women's health, pediatrics and dental services. Rather than dividing services into separate pods, doctors and nurses will be stationed in centralized areas where they can interact with each other, Davis said. Health care providers will be located in the same room, where they can discuss medical, dental or behavioral concerns with each other.

"We try to intertwine our services and deliver that true health care model," he said. "It really allows them to work together. We have lots of resources. The more we can work together, the more effective it will be."

The facility's design, he said, allows it to surround patients with all the services they are going to need. So if a child comes in for a wellness exam, he or she may also be due for dental checkup, which can be done in the same stop.

Ninety-five percent of the patients the center serves are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Including its sites in Linn, Fulton and California, it served 18,000 unique clients (in 53,000 visits) last year.

"We have additional resources and services to help us to cater to the individuals who are under served," Davis said. "We'll see anybody, but our model is set up for the under-served."

The center uses community health workers who can go to people's homes to help them connect with other community partners to find food, transportation and non-medical services for clients.

In addition to pediatrics, dentistry and women's health, the center offers vision, chronic pain, behavioral health and a substance abuse program. It has psychiatrists who can work with patients on their medications and treatments.

It works with Pathways, the local community mental health center.

Capital Region Medical Center's Family Medicine Residency Program gives more patients access to physicians in training.

The new site is larger and more efficient but also more convenient for many of its clients than the Truman Boulevard location, Davis said.

"Not only are we growing, as far as exam rooms, when we look at the patient base that we see, this is closer to their homes," he said. "They are going to have to travel less."

Transportation can be a difficult barrier for some of the center's patients to overcome, he added. Hopefully, patients will be able to walk to the site or take only one bus ride to reach it, rather than having to change buses multiple times.

The second floor of the center, which is to contain the pediatrics, dentistry and women's health services, is nearly completed, said Kyra Clevenger, the center's director of compliance.

Next week, crews are expected to begin cleaning the second floor and to begin moving furniture and equipment in. The first floor is expected to be completed about the week ending May 12, she said.

"Once that's done, we'll be able to move in," Clevenger said.

There may be some hurdles to cross before the center moves in, Davis said. One that concerns the center's administrators is that it has not yet been connected to the internet.

"We ordered it last July, and we still don't have the internet configured and set up here," he said. "That's the one thing I'm not holding my breath on yet."

The center won't begin seeing patients at Christy Drive until construction on the first and second floors are complete, Davis said.

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