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UTRGV health clinic opens in Bob Clark Community Center

October 5, 2018

The Bob Clark Community Center is home to a new medical clinic that aims to make health care more accessible to the rural residents of Cameron County.

Officials from the county government and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Thursday celebrated the opening of Area Health Education Center, one of three clinics run by the university’s School of Medicine. Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia C. Benavides said the community center is already home to a program where a physician assistant sees patients once per week.

“ This was an opportunity to open up our doors to a lot more people in Cameron County,” she said.

The university matched a $3.75 million grant awarded to it last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, and Cameron County spent $80,000 to remodel the community center and to create six exams rooms. The Area Health Education Center will offer primary and acute care for all ages, chronic disease screening, laboratory testing, immunizations and more.

Benavides gave an emotional speech during the ceremony in which she thanked both university partners and county employees for their work on the project, which was planned and executed over the course of about 14 months. She was a sheltered recent high school graduate when she began working for the Cameron County judge’s office in 1969, Benavides recalled, and began learning how some residents struggled desperately to pay for health care.

“ I’m elated,” she said. “This is not only for Precinct 1 but for all of Cameron County.”

The Area Health Education Center will not only increase health care services to a rural and underserved area, Benavides added. High school students training to pursue medical careers will be able to learn alongside UTRGV students and staff.

John Ronnau, UTRGV’s program director of the Area Health Education Centers, said the clinic will initially offer services one or two days per week but will gradually expand until it is open five days per week.

“ Thank you for always keeping the needs of your community at the forefront,” he said. “It’s humbling to know you’ve had faith and confidence in us.”

Ronnau said the university’s partnership with the county means the grant funds will be spent on people rather than a building or leasing a facility for the Area Health Education Center.

UTRGV is operating a similar health center in La Victoria in Starr County and is planning a third in San Carlos in Hidalgo County.

“ When they first came to us like, ‘We need a facility,’ it sounded like an absolute win-win,” County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said. “Many citizens do not have and receive adequate health care. I’m very excited for what this means for the future of the community.”

The center is located at 9901 California Road, Brownsville. For more information, call (956) 296-1681.

nadia@brownsvilleherald.com

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