Health center moves to newer, expanded space
The Squirrel Hill Health Center has dramatically increased its capacity to serve its medical and dental patients with new, expanded offices located at 4516 Browns Hill Road.
The new space — which has been open to patients since February, and had its grand opening this past May — boasts nine examination and procedural rooms, two behavioral health spaces, four dental exam rooms, and plenty of administrative and office space.
The larger space has allowed the center to serve more patients.
“We have already seen a huge up-tick in patient visits,” said Susan Friedberg Kalson, CEO of the SHHC. “We have had a 43 percent increase in patient visits in the first six months of the year.”
Founded in 2006, the SHHC operated from its former location at the Charles M. Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. In 2010, its dental offices moved to Browns Hill Road, and a $525,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in 2011 enabled the health center to renovate the vacant space adjacent to the center’s dental office into a new, expanded medical office.
The space is now a one-stop shop for dental, medical and behavioral health needs for community members, regardless of income.
The offices are modern and well-designed, with brightly painted walls and art to welcome a vast array of patients.
“We provide care to everybody, whether or not they have insurance, as well as people on Medicare and Medicaid,” said Kalson. “We have a sliding scale for the uninsured. Anyone who is uninsured with a household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level pays a discount. If their income is 100 percent of the poverty level, they pay $15 for a medical visit, and $25 for dental.”
The SHHC also works with those who cannot afford the minimum fees.
“We’re not about shutting the doors,” Kalson said. “We’re about opening them as wide as we can.”
The Jewish Healthcare Foundation took the reins in establishing the center six years ago, and in helping it meet the qualifications required to receive federal funding.
“The Jewish Healthcare Foundation knew there was an unmet need in this part of town, in the Jewish population and beyond, and in the populations once served by Montefiore Hospital,” Kalson said. “We opened in June 2006, and it took us awhile to get up and going. It has unfolded in ways nobody could have foreseen.”
For example, the diversity of patients coming to the center is vast, and more than 40 languages can be heard spoken there. The multilingual staff includes speakers of Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew and Nepali, the language of the many Bhutanese refugees that the center serves. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a physician on staff (and a blogger for the Chronicle), is fluent in American Sign Language.
The SHHC not only provides health care needs to its patients, but also works with other agencies to help them obtain additional services for which they may qualify, such as WIC (a federally-funded program that provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income women, infants and children), and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The health center also refers patients to the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry.
“We work with a lot of other social service agencies, both within and outside of the Jewish community,” Kalson said.
Although the SHHC was created by the Jewish community, it is a secular agency, receiving an annual federal grant from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration. SHHC is also funded by state grants, and several private organizations, including the Fine Foundation, Highmark Foundation, JHF and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
The health center partners with other Jewish agencies, notably Jewish Family & Children’s Service, helping to care for many immigrant families the JF&CS works to settle in the area.
Medical services at the center range from pre-natal to geriatric, and the focus, Kalson said, is on quality.
“Everybody gets the same quality of care in a nice setting,” Kalson said. “We are just trying to get better and better, and take care of more and more people.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)