By Rebekah Martin
The vacant building located at 102 S. Railroad Ave. may not be vacant much longer. Brett Scullen, along with the Opelika Community Development Corporation, want to bring a community health clinic to the downtown location. The proposed clinic would potentially provide the community with adult health, dental and eye care. Scullen, who has worked at Vanderbilt, UAB, and most recently EAMC, said he is a concerned citizen who saw a need, and just so happens to have a strong background in healthcare.
Founded in October 2015, the OCDC’s mission states its goal is to “improve the quality of life of Opelika residents by addressing the economic, housing, educational, social and community needs while preserving the history and heritage of the area.” Jimmy Wright, OCDC president, said the proposed clinic lines up with the non-profit organization’s vision for Opelika.
While a main focus of the OCDC is to implement housing and quality of life aspects of the Carver-Jeter Master Plan, Wright said the organization also likes to help facilitate any and all programs the would help strengthen the community.
“We know that there is a need in our community. We know the issues of insurance coverage, and it’s not that healthcare is not in Opelika. East Alabama Medical Center is just amazing: great leadership and employees. [There are] wonderful, talented physicians in the area, so it’s not about the care, it’s about the gap in the coverage. That is people who don’t qualify for Medicaid, and really when they look at the marketplace, they can’t afford that,” Wright said. “These are people who are not going to a physician, who are putting off healthcare issues because they just don’t have the money or insurance to do it.”
Wright said the role of the OCDC would be the owner or leaser of the property, and then contract with local healthcare providers who would operate their respective practices
“Also we would serve as a pass-through for grants and funding that we could get that would help facilitate this care and help these folks,” Wright added.
Wright made a presentation to the Lee County Commission at last week’s meeting about the process by which the OCDC could obtain the property. The commission is expected to have a response at its next meeting to be held Sept. 12.
Scullen, who is heading up the health clinic effort, said he first met with Wright and the OCDC a few months ago and began discussions on what it would take to see this project come to fruition.
“We started talking about some possibilities, and started understanding what their vision was for the community,” Scullen said. “It just seemed like a very natural partnership … community and population health is a really important part of what Jimmy and those guys are trying to do.”
Scullen said once the location is secured, the clinic could be operational within 120 days.