Area HIV clinic in line to expand
by Geoff Folsom
gfolsom@mdjonline.com
February 25, 2013 01:38 AM | 1909 views | 5 5 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb & Douglas Public Health could soon be doubling the size of its HIV clinic.

The clinic inside the Marietta Public Health Center, 1650 County Services Parkway, is 3,000 square feet. But Lisa P. Crossman, the health department’s director of the Center for Clinical & Prevention Services, said the department plans to use funds from the 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to help it expand after a series of renovations.

Once the $2.2 million in renovations to the old Superior Courthouse are complete, Cobb Juvenile Court will leave its current building, located just south of the health department on County Services Parkway. A $3.1 million renovation at the current juvenile court building will allow for the health department to expand next door.

At that point, the Women, Infants and Children program will leave the current building, allowing for the HIV clinic to expand to 6,000 square feet while staying in the same building, Crossman said.

“Those plans are still in development, so there could be some changes,” Crossman said.

Crossman said the health department recently selected an architect to design the renovation of the HIV clinic, which isn’t expected to be complete until 2015 or 2016. It is part of a $674,270 interior renovation at the existing Marietta Health Department building, but the exact cost of the expanded HIV clinic is not yet known.

The HIV clinic, which serves patients living with AIDS and the virus that causes AIDS, has grown about 10 percent a year since it opened it 1992, now serving 705 patients for primary medical care services, Crossman said. While the clinic has a goal of having patients come in at least twice a year, some of them only come in once.

“We have had some challenges over the past year because of that caseload growth, and the limitations with our space and the limitations with our funding,” she said.

The clinic has an infectious disease physician and one nurse practitioner, as well as support staff. Along with full primary medical care, the facility provides mental health care and counseling and referrals to doctors in other specialties. Doctors prescribe medication to the patients.

The drugs are paid for with federal funding or pharmaceutical company programs.

“The folks coming in are not just having issues related to AIDS and HIV positive status, but they’re having cardiovascular disease, diabetes, all sorts of other problems that have to be treated along with the HIV,” she said. “So it makes for a very complex patient.”

With 65 percent of the clinic’s clients under the poverty level, and the cost of HIV prescription drugs running about $25,000 a year, Cobb Board of Health Chairman Dr. Dan B. Stephens said the clinic is needed.

“They tend to send them to that from all over the county,” he said.

Crossman said the clinic occasionally has to cap enrollment and place patients on a waiting list. To try to eliminate that, the health department has worked with state officials, recently getting funding for a second nurse practitioner, as well as a health aide and a case manager to work with newly enrolled patients to help them link to other service providers. The department is now recruiting the new employees.

“We think that will dramatically impact being able to serve some additional patients,” Crossman said.

But the clinic is still underfunded, she said.

Crossman said an estimate shows that it would take $6.6 million to fully serve the health department’s 705 patients, but it only received $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Ryan White program.

“We will continue to look with our state sources and with our development office for ways to find additional funds to serve those folks,” she said.
Comments
(5)
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maryanneC
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April 21, 2013
Not true, someone should follow up. I was diagnosed with HIV and referred there by the hospital only to be sent to another facility an hour away. Yhey are turning people down every day.
anonymous
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February 26, 2013
To begin, the term is "non-documented" and not illegal, so you may want to obtain a higher level vocabualry as well as more education. Now, to address the issue at hand, I would imagine that many people would stay away from such an organization since a negative stigma is still attached to those infected with HIV or the AIDS virus. Why aren't we making the process easier for these unhealthy individuals,
Pat H
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February 25, 2013
Are they checking for citizen status? If not, why not? Public funding is NOT supposed to be used for illegal aliens - the only reason illegals come here is to get freebies their own government doesn't think they deserve.
anonymous
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February 25, 2013
No doubt in my mind that Cobb is treating people from other counties as well.

The health department used to be a good option for young families a couple decades ago, if you wanted to get your kids shots without the extravagent cost of a doctor visit. The last time I took my kids there, we couldn't breathe in the waiting room, the people were so dirty, smelly and apparently destitute (or straight off the coyote truck from Mexico). I'm not heartless, but certainly am tired of seeing our services overrun by people who don't contribute to the system.
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