A new 14,112-square-foot Community Health Clinic will open in Shipshewana next year.
CHC will move from a 3,500-square-foot suite at 315 Lehman Ave., Topeka, to 505 N. Morton St., Shipshewana. The new clinic will accommodate more patients, additional visiting specialists, expanded research and multiple classrooms, said Executive Director Jared Beasley.
Fundraising has been going on for about a year. A benefit auction and supper were held April 29 at the Topeka Livestock Auction Barn and a $40,000 Community Impact Grant was recently presented by the LaGrange County Community Foundation.
“We are excited to support the Community Health Clinic’s new facility. The expanded clinic will help their organization provide better services to their patients and continue to serve the community with comprehensive medical genetics care,” said Octavia Yoder, LCCF executive director.
Ground has been broken on a 10-acre property in northern Shipshewana. The clinic is scheduled to open late next spring or early next summer. In response to development in the area, the town of Shipshewana plans to extend North Street, easing access to the clinic via CR 735W.
Planning has spanned the past six or seven years, said Beasley, with a desire to better serve people with rare genetic conditions. The nonprofit clinic, guided by a local ethics committee, provides genetics care consistent with Amish and Mennonite values – though people from all cultures are served.
“We see a good deal of very rare diseases that exist in the Amish population and Mennonite population,” said Beasley.
About half of the patients are infants and children. Families are referred by physicians or they consult CHC when they learn about symptoms consistent with genetic aberrations. More than three fourths of the patients are from the Amish and Mennonite communities.
Founded in 2009, CHC started admitting patients in 2013. Over the last eight years, the clinic has served 4,200 patients, both children and adults. Most of them are from Indiana and Michigan but the it serves families from 19 states and several foreign countries. Throughout the year, CHC sees patients in five outreach clinic locations as far north as Clare, Michigan and south to Paoli.
The self-pay clinic does not accept traditional insurance and about one-third of its annual budget comes from donations and fundraisers.
“It is conservatively estimated that for every contributed dollar, eight to 10 dollars in healthcare savings are leveraged in return; that’s over $10 million dollars annually that remains in the region’s economy,” said a CHC news release.
The clinic provides access to specialized care in a rural community where travel to medical institutions like Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis can be difficult and disorienting.
The new facility will offer more space for visiting specialty doctors, like cardiologists and endocrinologists, and its research program, which is conducted in cooperation with universities, labs and pharmaceutical companies. The CHC team is currently involved in six studies.
“We are doing some clinical trials, some new types,” said Beasley.
CHC also researches the natural history of a specific disease, attempting to discover how it developed. It has expertise in providing diagnoses and high-quality, affordable care for more than 230 rare conditions.
A big part of what CHC does is educate patients and families. The new clinic will feature several small classrooms and one large meeting room with a 100-person capacity. CHC currently rents space in large buildings like churches to provide educational talks, said Beasley.
CHC conducts seminars on specific conditions and also provides general education on genetic diseases. An example of a locally occurring genetic defect is Phenylketonuria, also called PKU, a rare inherited disorder that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to build up in the body. Untreated phenylketonuria can lead to brain damage, intellectual disabilities, behavioral symptoms or seizures. Treatment includes a strict diet with limited protein.
The CHC staff includes geneticists and dieticians who help guide families with children with PKU on how to provide a low-protein diet and collect regular blood samples.
CHC works closely with people in Nappanee, where hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is prevalent. It is a rare disease in which the heart muscle becomes thickened; untreated it could result in a heart attack. Treatment may include surgery, an implantable device or medications to slow or regulate the heart rate. The condition often goes undiagnosed, so education on symptoms and testing within the at-risk community can help identify those who suffer from it.
Along with providing care, CHC offers support. It can connect families who are dealing with the same rare medical issues so they do not feel alone in their struggles.
Beasley said the building of the Shipshewana clinic is a milestone in CHC’s mission.
“The new building is a community investment – one focused on helping to improve the quality of life for families affected by rare disorders,” said the news release. “Ultimately, this project will support our goal of decreasing the timeline from diagnosis to treatment; helping advance cures with the hope that one day, all children may grow up to enjoy healthy, happy, and productive lives. Our focus remains on saving and improving lives, and sharing what we learn with others … The Community Health Clinic’s commitment is firmly rooted in the region and what we learn together with patient families has truly global impact. We are grateful for the community’s advocacy and support, and truly blessed to do this privileged work.”
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