Nonprofits mull Mountain View health care expansion

Years after Mountain View’s neighborhood health clinic closed its doors, plans are coming together to ramp up access to primary care in the area.

But what form will it take?

While one of the neighborhood’s prominent nonprofits is prepared to help bring a clinic back into Mountain View, one of Anchorage’s largest health care providers is looking at other options.

The Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, which ran Mountain View’s now-shuttered clinic, is planning to expand shuttle services between its new Midtown campus and northeast Anchorage.

“We had always been concerned about the access for folks that didn’t have their own car, and all of the problems with using (bus) route 45; the fact that it’s always full, and has been always full for years and years,” said Jon Zasada, development and marketing director at ANHC.

According to Lance Wilber, head of the municipality’s transportation department, route 45 is the busiest in Anchorage. It’s also the sole bus route into and out of Mountain View, traveling between the Downtown Transit Center and the Alaska Native Medical Center. Currently, ANHC operates an hourly shuttle to and from the transit center — a circuitous option for Mountain View locals without transportation.

“We’re looking to expand that in this coming year,” Zasada said.

The marketing director said he’s still working to figure out how much the service will cost, where it would go and other logistics. One thing he knows for certain: The expanded shuttle services will head north towards Mountain View.

Kirk Rose, community development director at the Anchorage Community Land Trust, said the nonprofit has a vested interest in increasing health care opportunities in the neighborhood. As the land trust works to promote business and community development throughout Mountain View, he said health care continues to play an important role.

“The real crux of it is access,” Rose said.

State statistics show the neighborhood has exponentially more emergency room “super users” than other areas of Alaska. Many Mountain View patients turn to emergency rooms for non-emergency issues, and Rose said it’s an expensive situation.

Expanded access to medical care in Mountain View could save money. It could also improve overall neighborhood health. As it stands, Rose said the land trust continues to gather data and see how community health impacts community development.

“For the most part, we’re wondering where does the family with two kids who live on Bunn Street go when they have an ear infection in the middle of the night?” he said.

The land trust currently owns several properties that could be used for a neighborhood health clinic, Rose said: a building on Price Street and a developable lot on Mountain View Drive. But a provider would need to step in to make it happen.

For ANHC, which currently serves about 17,000 patients, Zasada said the clinic in Mountain View didn’t pencil out. There weren’t enough providers to make it viable, he said, and it faced a number of related challenges.

Now, he said the new, three-story center off of C Street is finally becoming sustainable. With a third of its patients traveling from Mountain View, Russian Jack and Muldoon, Zasada said the center is again looking for ways to expand its services north.

This year, he said, that probably means new shuttle services.

“We’re interested in doing whatever we can to support care for the Mountain View community,” he said.

 

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