The grand opening of Lorain County Health & Dentistry’s Oberlin clinic Aug. 31 was part of a six-year rebound for the nonprofit group.
In 2010, the organization was in danger of closing due to a lack of money to help treat its mostly poor patients. But the passage of Obamacare revived it.
The law — officially known as the Affordable Care Act — included about $11 billion for community health centers like Lorain County Health & Dentistry. By 2015, nearly 24.3 million Americans were being served by 1,373 health centers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Bureau of Primary Health Care.
Some 20 million more Americans, including 243,715 Ohioans, have health insurance since the passage of Obamacare and the 2013 expansion of Medicaid in Ohio that was part of Obamacare.
The expansion also helped Lorain County Health & Dentistry open the $3.2 million clinic this April at 260 South Main St., the fifth facility for the group, which also has centers in Elyria and Lorain.
“We’re a country rich in resources, but, unfortunately, not for everyone,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland) told about 80 people at the ceremony. “It’s why this community health center is so important.”
Given concentrated areas of high poverty in America and growing income inequality — the richest one percent of Americans controlled 42 percent of the nation’s wealth in 2012, according to a May study by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — Brown said zip codes often dictate life expectancy.
Besides regular medical care, Brown said clinics like Oberlin’s provide dental care to children and young adults who might not receive it otherwise.
“We owe it to these kids that are not as rich in resources as many of us under this tent,” he said. “I’m so proud of what Oberlin always does and always stands for and always accomplishes.”
The clinic has had about 650 visits since opening, said CEO Stephanie Wiersma prior to the ceremony. Formed in 2002, the group has an approximately $8 million annual budget.
It served about 12,000 patients who made nearly 40,000 visits last year. About 9,600 visits, or 24 percent, were for dental care.
Wiersma thanked Oberlin officials for helping get the center opened two years after talks began. Oberlin owned the the former lumberyard where the clinic stands.
“We will continue to do our mission to do more, serve more, and offer more wherever there is need,” she said. “It’s part of who were are.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune About 80 people attended the Aug. 31 grand opening of Lorain County Health & Dentistry, 260 South Main St., Oberlin. Ribbon-cutters included U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland), the group’s CEO Stephanie Wiersma, interim city manager Sal Talarico, and councilwoman Sharon Soucy.