An empty lot in North Sacramento once planned for a grocery store may soon sprout a health clinic instead.
The Health and Life Organization Inc., a nonprofit health care provider with four Sacramento-area locations, in December submitted a proposal to the city’s planning division for a 14,484-square-foot medical building on an empty lot at 965 El Camino Ave.
Known as HALO, the group provides medical, dental and mental health services, primarily to low-income patients.
The empty lot where it’s seeking to build previously was slated for a Fresh & Easy grocery store. The grocery company, then owned by a British conglomerate, abruptly withdrew from the Sacramento market in 2013. But it had already prepared the North Sacramento land for construction with the necessary underground utilities, grading and drainage. HALO purchased the lot and proposed a new clinic on top of the existing infrastructure.
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The neighborhood is home to a “tremendously underserved population,” said Dr. Miguel Suarez, program developer for HALO.
“There are a lot of health care disparities in that region – disparities with diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease and behavioral health issues,” he said. “We don’t have enough services penetrating in that area, so we needed to expand in this location.”
The new facility, if approved by the city, will offer primary care and family medicine. Down the line, HALO will propose a 2,900-square-foot expansion to house dental services, behavioral health care, OB/GYN services and a pharmacy, said Dan Giffin of MFDB Architects Inc., who spearheaded the proposal.
It will cost about $1.5 million to build the facility, which HALO will pay for with its own funds and by taking out loans, said Jerry T. Bliatout, the group’s chief executive officer. He expects to place a staff of about 100 in the building once it is completed. HALO accepts patients on a sliding scale regardless of insurance, and receives higher than usual reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal and Medicaid services by virtue of being a federally qualified health center.
Bliatout said there are waiting lists for primary care appointments at HALO’s existing facilities. More space and providers will get patients into the clinic faster and keep them out of emergency rooms.
“We have a shortage of providers,” he said. “With a new facility, we’ll see more patients and do a better job on the care for our populations. We’ll provide more services for the uninsured.”
The proposal is undergoing a review process with city of Sacramento staff, which will take a minimum of a few weeks, according to Daniel Abbes, junior planner with the Community Development Department. Because it was submitted as a staff-level project, the proposal does not need to be voted on by the council.
Giffin said he’s planning a modern stucco and tile building that fits in with other updates going on in North Sacramento. Considering the possibility of vandalism in the high-crime neighborhood, he said he wants the clinic to be durable and easy to clean. He expects construction would start in the spring and take about nine months.
“We envision a building that’s going to be complementary to the community, and a bit less dated than what the community has right now,” he said. “The majority of people will visit by foot or bus, so (HALO) is really trying to expand and make it more accessible.”