Expanding service: Sea Mar’s renovation provides more care for underserved

Oct 19, 2011

Skagit Valley Herald

By Tahlia Honea

October 19, 2011

MOUNT VERNON — With a little bit of fanfare, a visit by an influential congressman and big smiles all around, Sea Mar Community Health Center celebrated a $1.3 million expansion and renovation that more than doubles its capacity to serve more patients.

“It’s a big, big change,” said Adolfo Lucatero, 63, who was at the newly renovated clinic in Mount Vernon during its open house and celebration Tuesday. “Sometimes we would be here for three or four hours waiting for the doctor to come see us.”

The expansion and renovation added 10 new exam rooms, 10 dental operatories, cleaned up some mold and consolidated all of the clinic’s services into one building in the 1400 block of North LaVenture Road. The building now includes two OB/GYN physicians and maternity support services.

“This allows for much better coordination of services with our six family practice doctors,” said Mary Lou Martinez, the clinic manager.

Several mothers carried their babies out of the clinic Tuesday, while staff worked on the teeth of several patients sitting in the new dental chairs.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., was honored at the open house for his support of health and human services. He supported the funding to renovate the clinic. The improvements were funded by stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which invested $2 billion nationally in community health centers, according to Sea Mar.

“It’s easy to help the community health centers,” Larsen said Tuesday during his visit.

They cater to an underserved population and are the backbone to the health care system, he said.

“These dollars have a very real impact on the quality of life in Skagit County,” Larsen said.

Karen Parnell, deputy director for Skagit County Community Action Agency, said the expansion goes beyond helping those directly in need of affordable health care. With more people able to see the doctor regularly, fewer people will be visiting the emergency rooms, she said.

“It’s a huge boon to the community,” Parnell said.

Lucatero works part time, but like many patients at Sea Mar, he and his wife depend on the organization’s sliding pay scale to see a doctor. He has trouble with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and “just age.”

“I’m just really glad that we have Sea Mar for people because it really helps,” he said. “A lot of people wouldn’t know what to do without it.”