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New health care center opens

The following is a guest column by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

History was made last month with the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the new Erie County Health Mall at 1500 Broadway in Buffalo. A unique, public-private collaboration that is the first of its kind in Western New York and brings together primary, dental and mental health care providers under one roof.

Erie County owns the facility and we lease space to our partners from Catholic Health, the State University of New York at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine, Lake Shore Behavioral Health and Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services. Together we opened the doors to this state-of-the-art facility and welcomed residents inside to see what this new, vibrant health care model has to offer.

Open to all residents, regardless of where they reside, the health mall offers an array of services focused on providing primary and chronic disease care, in order to better manage patients’ conditions before they lead to hospitalization. Catholic Health is providing adult primary care and internal medicine services, obstetric-gynecological and prenatal care services and physical therapy, along with operating an NCQA Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home and on-site laboratory service center. The State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine operates a student-run dental clinic with urgent care-style services, Lake Shore Behavioral Health offers adult behavioral health services, and Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment Services provides child, adolescent and family behavioral health services.

The mall is located at the site of the former Dr. Matt Gajewski Health Services Center, which was closed by the prior county executive, leaving a large segment of residents without access to primary, dental and prenatal care.

Predictably, people needing these and other basic health services went to area emergency rooms, driving up costs and clogging facilities with patients who had basic health care needs. Research from the Office of the Erie County Inspector General showed a steady increase in the number of emergency room visits since the former Gajewski site was closed in 2009. Through its expanded health care options, the mall is expected to reduce the number of these visits by more than 3,400, in its first year of operation.

Through a $2.6 million capital project investment, the Erie County Department of Public Works oversaw a complete renovation of the space at 1500 Broadway, including the installation of new electrical and climate systems, leading to the Erie County Health Mall’s LEED Silver-certifiable designation.

While the mall facility is owned by Erie County, each of the health care providers on-site is a partner in this initiative and will fully staff and manage their own operations, while Erie County provides security and maintenance functions.

The opening of the Erie County Health Mall represents a major change in how primary care services are delivered and also demonstrates the necessary commitment of dedicated partners to making that change possible.

Erie County is leading the way with this new model for the provision of health care, and I encourage residents county-wide to come and see the success.


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