Community redevelopment in Lacoochee is getting a healthy dose of medical care for the needy. The nonprofit Premier Community HealthCare Group announced last week it will open a health clinic inside a community center planned for the poverty-plagued hamlet in northeast Pasco.
It is a welcome addition to the community and similar to the model Premier had hoped to follow in Hudson. There, however, a planned clinic to serve low-income and uninsured residents at the state hurricane shelter was scuttled by Gov. Rick Scott last summer when he killed a $1.5 million appropriation.
In Lacoochee, Premier won't face the same start-up and operating costs because it will use existing staff for a one-day-a-week clinic. It is projected to treat up to 25 patients each day it is open.
The clinic will be a part of the community center that also will house the Lewis B. Abraham Boys & Girls Club and other planned services including nutrition and job-training programs for adults. The community center, construction of which is scheduled to begin later this year, is being financed by a $1 million state grant and $900,000 in private donations.
The 12,800-square-foot building is the centerpiece, so far, of the county and community redevelopment efforts in Lacoochee that include improvements to Stanley Park, home construction by Habitat for Humanity, utility work by Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative and the planned cleanup of underground fuel storage tanks at the former Cummer and Sons Cypress Co. sawmill site. The long-term goals for the area include better transit, pedestrian paths, code enforcement, workforce training, crime prevention and, most notably, future employment opportunities if new industry can be lured to the sawmill site.
Premier, which serves both low-income and private-insurance clients, now helps fill the health care element of the community makeover. Currently, medical facilities, including Premier's other clinics, are 8 miles away in Dade City, a substantial distance for a population that often lacks reliable personal transportation.
Providing access to affordable health care is particularly important in Lacoochee, where half the adults lack a high school education and the median income is 55 percent lower than the countywide average. In the coming months, getting to the doctor's office should be one less worry for the residents there and one more task to scratch off the community redevelopment to-do list.