Clinica Medicos leaders and partners have begun renovations at a new 8,000-square-foot facility designed to meet the dental health and behavior needs of the underserved and growing population of Latinos in the Chattanooga area.
The facility will be located a quarter mile from Clinica Medicos’ main site on East 23rd Street at a former auto service station that the provider acquired in 2020 after the pandemic began. Many Chattanoogans will recognize the vacant station as First site to offer free COVID-19 testing to the community.
Dr. Kelly Arnold, founder and medical director of Clinica Medicos, said during a groundbreaking event Thursday that the expansion is the next step in the team’s goal to make high-quality health care more affordable for families with few other resources and options.
“As never before in Chattanooga, there will be a place ready for members of the Spanish-speaking community to meet their emotional or psychological needs, along with their medical and dental concerns,” Arnold said, speaking to a crowd of more than 100.
Where Opened its doors in 2015Clinica Medicos has grown from a five-person team treating more than 2,000 patients in the first year to now nearly 40,000 registered patients and 45 employees, including physicians, nurses, paramedics, administrative, and others. It is the only bilingual primary care clinic in the city that offers comprehensive care for all ages and life stages, including obstetrics and pediatrics, regardless of a patient’s insurance status or ability to pay.
“There is a phenomenon in health care, where the more patients’ needs are linked and care fragmented, the deeper the relationship, the lower any debt burden, the more secure the patient feels, and the better their life will be,” Arnold said.
The renovation, which is scheduled to cost approximately $5 million, is due to be completed in about a year and will result in a mental complex (Renuevo) and dental space (Clínica Sonrisas) of approximately eight rooms and/or dental treatment rooms and a multi-therapist office with Family therapy and group therapy session rooms, as well as a meeting space for the organization, according to Arnold and spokesperson Keri Hayes.
In 2020, Clinica Medicos leadership formed a charitable arm called the Medicos Mission Fund to identify and solicit funds to cover additional costs related to its mission. The largest of these contributions to date is a $250,000 grant from the Trust for Renewal.
On Thursday, Arnold honored several other partners from both the private and public sectors who have supported the expansion.
State Senator Todd Gardenshire, R-Chattanooga, speaking at the event, said improving education, health care and financial stability within the Hispanic community in Chattanooga is essential to the city’s future success, and failure to do so would be “one of the most tragic mistakes” in Chattanooga’s history.
Gardenshire said after the event that $376,000 from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s proposed budget had been reallocated to go toward the project.
Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamb spoke at the event and said he plans to communicate with county commissioners in the coming weeks about investing as well in the facility, something former Mayor Jim Coppinger said he promised.
“What is happening in our community right now is a massive transformation that will fully reveal itself with the coming years when future physicians, elected officials and business leaders will come from our Latino-Latino community,” Wham said, noting that 9,000 of the district’s 45,000 residents are Latino students. “And in many ways, Clinica Medicos probably touches Hamilton County public school students more than any nongovernmental entity.”
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