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Athens Neighborhood Health Center pitches major expansion to ACC Commissioners

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Athens Neighborhood Health Center
A proposed expansion of the Athens Neighborhood Health Center on McKinley Drive. The existing facility is shown on the bottom part of the drawing; the proposed expansion on the top half.

The Athens Neighborhood Health Center is on track to get a face-lift.

The center operates three facilities – one on College Avenue, one on McKinley Drive, and a health center at Hilsman Middle School. It’s the McKinley Drive facility that is set for a major expansion.

Marcus Garner, the organization’s CEO, spoke to Athens-Clarke County Commissioners at a work session on Tuesday.

"Last year we served over 7,000 patients, and we feel with the proposed expansion, we will serve an additional 2500 patients," Garner told commissioners.

The Health Center needs the Commission’s approval in order to move forward with the expansion, because the McKinley Drive building itself is owned by the county. ANHC leases the facility from the government, and will fund the new construction itself, primarily through federal grants.

That necessary approval from Commissioners seems likely to happen soon. Those Commissioners who spoke at the work session seemed broadly supportive of the expansion.

"I am a patient," said District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton. "I have the best service there and I'm just excited about this. We don't do a lot of things that I get really excited about, but this is awesome."

The expansion will also allow the Health Center to add new services, including dentistry and mental health services.

"We've been investing a lot in addressing acute mental health crises, but catching people before they slip through, having those consistent connections with a mental health provider, I think is excellent," said District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker. "I can't wait to sign off and get this thing going."

Garner told Commissioners that he also estimates that the new facility will enable pharmacists to process about 1,000 more prescriptions per month, and allow the Athens Neighborhood Health Center to add a social worker, two dental providers, and two medical providers to its staff.

The proposal is likely to come up again on the Mayor and Commission’s agenda-setting meeting next week and could see a final vote early next month.