Ground Broken For New Medical Clinic in Mulberry
By Suzie Schottelkotte
MULBERRY | An hour-long ceremony Friday morning culminated more than three years of planning, organizing and strategizing to bring a health care center to the Mulberry community.
"When it came down to health care just for Mulberry, the people spoke," said Julie Taylor, president of Mulberry Concerned Citizens, during the groundbreaking event. "We spoke very clearly. We need a health care facility here.
"Now, that reality is almost here."
Central Florida Health Care Inc., based in Avon Park, has secured an estimated $1.4 million in federal grants to create that reality. The city has donated about an acre of land at Prairie Mine Road and State Road 60, on Mulberry's west side, to complete the package.
Gaye Williams, the federally qualified health care group's chief executive officer, congratulated those gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony Friday, including city administrators and community leaders.
"We are here," she said, "and we are here to stay."
Chief Operating Officer Ann Claussen stands by CFHC Central Florida Health Care Inc. Chairman Roy Tyler as he praises Chief Executive Officer Gaye Williams at the groundbreaking.
The clinic, like others operated by Central Florida Health Care, will provide health care services to Mulberry residents who aren't receiving adequate medical care, including those with low incomes, the elderly, migrant seasonal farm workers, homeless people and residents of public housing.
The program also has clinics in Lakeland, Frostproof, Winter Haven and Dundee, and a dental clinic in Lake Wales.
Federally qualified centers, like Central Florida, treat patients on a sliding scale based on income.
Initially, the agency received a $500,000 school-based health grant, which would have funded a program focused on pediatrics. But last month, the agency received another $775,000 in Affordable Care Act funding, enabling Central Florida Health Care to expand the program to include adult services.
The initial effort in Mulberry grew from a community visioning day three years ago, when residents expressed a need for a local clinic. That led to an $80,000 grant to explore the feasibility of bringing a clinic to Mulberry, which brought to light the need for a health care program in the community.
Susan Cremering of SEK Consulting, who sought the grant funding, said Friday that Mulberry stands as an example of how to identify disparities in health care among residents and to have the community come together to address those disparities.
"This is one of those things that came about because citizens, leadership and the community of Mulberry had a vision," she said. "You may fight among yourselves, but when it comes time to get something done, you pull together."
Gary Davenport, vice president of design and construction for Spectrum Building Systems Inc. in Gainesville, Ga., said construction of the 10,000-square-foot building should begin after the first of the year. Totaling about $1.4 million, the two-story structure will be a modular, meaning it will be built off-site and brought to Mulberry for assembly.
Once construction begins, he said, the building should be finished within three to four months.
[ Suzie Schottelkotte can be reached at email@example.com or 863-533-9070. ]