Hometown Health Center’s Plans for a new Medical, Wellness, and Community Recovery Center
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Hometown Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center, has a service area covering 20+ rural communities in Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Waldo counties. This area has been federally designated as having a shortage of health care professionals. To meet the needs of the community, Hometown will be opening a new Medical and Wellness Facility in Palmyra. As a Patient Centered Medical Home model, Hometown is eager to have preventative care, acute care, behavioral health, oral hygiene and a comprehensive wellness center under one roof. The medical facility design will provide cutting edge patient flow, air filtration, medical and dental pods, integration of behavioral health services in an effort to provide warm hand offs. The pods allow for more communication and oversite of our staff as providers will be in the pod with their care team.
Hometown serves everyone without regard for ability to pay. The percentage of people in the service area population with incomes below 200% of federal poverty level (FPL) ranges from 35% in Waldo and Penobscot Counties to 41% in Piscataquis and 44% in Somerset. Approximately 12% of the population of each county is uninsured, and 15% of the total population is over the age of 65 (ranging from 14-18%).
The wellness part of the building will have a gym space with treadmills, a walking/running track, and equipment, classrooms to hold informational sessions, brown bag luncheons for the community, and regular sessions with a pharmacist who will do a comprehensive audit of an older adults’ medications. There will also be nutrition classes, specifically for those on SNAP to help them eat healthier. Hometown collaborates with local farmers in the Farm Share program. Hometown has a community garden currently to grow and give away free produce. The new facility will allow for an expansion of the garden so more people can be fed nutritious food. A food cupboard will also be on site. There will also be a day care center, and an opportunity to expand the Medication Assistance Treatment program to fight the opioid crisis. Older adults will have space to gather to increase their sociability and decrease loneliness and isolation.
There is nothing like this facility in the state. It will be comprehensive in medical care, dental care and in health and wellness opportunities. The nearest facility similar to this one is the YMCA which is 30+ minutes of travel time, which presents a large barrier to many people in the community. Additionally, it can be expensive to join. It is important to note that the wellness center is not just for patients. Anyone may use the gym, take classes, and use the food cupboard. This is a community facility for everyone.
There are concerning trends in Hometown’s area, including sedentary lifestyles, poor mental and physical health, obesity, heart disease, increasing suicide rates and drug abuse. The wellness facility will support a healthier lifestyle and provide the opportunity for people to actually get involved with their own health. It’s one thing for a provider to recommend diet and exercise but quite another thing for the patient to actually have the ability to follow through.
Going to a gym can be intimidating. Learning how to eat right can be daunting. Trying to do both can also be costly. The wellness facility will not only allow people to participate in a very cost-effective way, but staff will be able to provide guidance on site.
The COVID pandemic changed the way we all live. Patients are hesitant to visit a facility out of fear of contracting the virus so subsequently they get behind on their regular appointments, which reduces preventive care. We can’t fault them for that. The risk in the community is real. Hometown has had extraordinary success keeping people safe, but it wasn’t easy. Outdoor testing during Maine winters was not a viable option, yet we did it. Additionally, it has been extremely difficult on staff testing sites over the last two years. The new facility will have special accommodations for pandemic-related services.
The total square footage of the facility is 50,000 square feet: Health Center 27,500 and Wellness Center 22,400. It is two floors and will have an elevator to eliminate barriers to access. The land has been secured in Palmyra and the architect firm, Harriman, in Portland, has been engaged.
The bottom line is that this project stands to significantly increase the health and wellness of the entire community. So many physical conditions, emotional and mental illnesses can be lessened or overcome altogether with access to the right treatment and services. That is what Hometown wants to do.