A community health care center where those in need can find free dental, mental and medical services is now open for business.
The first stand-alone Chandler Care Center is located on the northeast corner of the Galveston Elementary School property at 777 E. Galveston St. The center — operated by the Chandler Unified School District — has been in existence since 1996, when it opened as the San Marcos Resource Center in a set of rooms at San Marcos Elementary School a few miles away.
But 11 years ago an idea was hatched to have a bigger facility, where services could be merged — vision, hearing, medical, immunization clinics, a food bank and more.
Ground-breaking on the 8,800-square-foot facility was in September after enough funds were raised to make the dream a reality.
The construction project cost around $2.5 million, with some services — including design — being donated from community members. About $1 million came from the Chandler district through bond funds. The city of Chandler kicked in $500,000. Private donors and grants made up the rest.
The doctors and dentists volunteer their time at the center. Two mental health counselors are being funded mostly by Southwest Behavioral Health Center, as well as a grant from Catholic Healthcare West, which operates Chandler Medical Center.
Director Susan Horan is in awe of the new facility.
“It’s truly integrated health care. You can have the medical and the mental health,” on the same site, she said.
At the former site on San Marcos Elementary, a set of rooms were used for physicals, immunizations and flu shots, as well as distributing food boxes to the community. In 2008, 20,000 people came to the center for assistance.
The new facility allows the center to expand its offerings. Right now, the center is accepting patients on an appointment basis.
“This way we can treat the person in total and not just in fragments,” Horan said.
Dr. Greg Auxier, with Gilbert Pediatrics, has been a volunteer pediatrician for the San Marcos site for 10 years. He and others from the East Valley Pediatric Society — including Kathy Krieg and Jeanette Camacho — have moved over to the Galveston site as well.
“I just did my first clinic out there last week. It was marvelous. It’s a beautiful facility,” Auxier said.
Once a month, Auxier and other doctors see pediatric patients.
“I see babies for checkups. Older kids for colds. Earaches. Kids with school problems,” Auxier said. “I think that’s the biggest benefit for the schools. The kids can come in for a medical diagnosis to see if something is going on medically.”
He did note that the facility does not distribute birth control.
Doctors and nurse practitioners rotate their services at the center, Auxier said. Banner Health provides a nurse practitioner on Mondays and Catholic Healthcare West provides immunization nurses.
Horan said there are rooms in the facility for group counseling. She’s working to set up sessions for grief counseling and children of divorce.
Another set of rooms are available for community agencies to use a few hours a week. Any group that offers services to the community free of charge are welcome, she said.
The food bank takes up to 660 square feet. Toyota Financial Services is providing help several hours a week.
The three chairs for pediatric dental services in an open area are all new. There are digital X-ray machines and a place to create molds for mouthpieces or retainers. Another dental chair — in a soundproof room — was donated for young patients who may need to be isolated.
Hearing and screening rooms are still being set up. A large community room will double as a waiting area for patients coming in for immunization clinics. Firemen will have a separate room to give the vaccines.
Horan said she could still use donations of moveable walls or dividers and curtains to separate spaces for some parts of the center.