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Mid-City CAN Blog

City Heights Family Health Center focuses on patients

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Family Health Centers of San Diego is making a big impact in City Heights with its new clinic on El Cajon Boulevard that opened about a year ago.

“We’ve been seeing a significant increase in the number of patients that we are seeing in City Heights, which validated our belief that there was a great need for affordable health care in City Heights,” said Ben Avey, government and media relations manager at Family Health Centers.

Family Health Centers treated 8,820 patients during 2011 at its old storefront City Heights location, he said. About 80 percent were below the federal poverty level, he said, and 94 percent were below 200 percent of that level. Family Health Centers of San Diego has seen a 500 percent increase in demand for patient care since it started providing services in City Heights in 2002.

Part of that increase may be due to its approach and certifications, which are critical to its mission.

“We were the first in San Diego and the second in the country to be designated as a Primary Care Medical Home,” Avey said. And “we are actually the second largest Federally Qualified Health Center in the nation.”

Health centers are community organizations that provide primary care and preventive services, including things like oral and mental health to people of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay or whether they have insurance.

“Primary Care Medical Home represents a new approach for hospitals to emphasize their commitment to patient-centered care, ” according to Mark G. Pelletier, interim chief operating officer and director of accreditation and certification services at The Joint Commission, which offers the certification.

Avey gave some examples of what that approach means.

“It’s not just coming in for a doctor’s appointment and you leaving,” he said. “Having a medical home is having a consistent place you go for care, and we help to coordinate your care to make sure that you are receiving the services that you need.”

A focus on prevention is the defining trait of this approach.

“We are able to not just care for you when you are sick, but also be there when you are healthy to keep you healthy,” Avey said.

If someone doesn’t qualify for any government assistance, they get services based on a discounted sliding-fee scale that starts at $35 for the office visit, Avey said. Income and family size are key factors used to calculate these fees.

“We believe there is value in [patients] paying for their care, because they take responsibility for it,” Avey said. “It becomes a valued service for them.”

Keeping people healthy is a core value for the clinics -- and the community.

“If people are sick, they are not in the workforce,” he said. “If kids are sick, they are not in school.”

Providing non-emergency room treatment for the uninsured makes sense, he said.

“An average patient visit [costs Family Health Centers] about $160 – I think an average ER visit in San Diego is $850,” Avey said. “If you don’t have a safety net health care system for folks that don’t have insurance, they are going to end up in places like the emergency rooms seeking care, which is just not financially good for taxpayers or anybody.”


City Heights Family Health Center
5454 El Cajon Blvd.
(619) 515-2400

Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Saturday 8:30am - 12:30 p.m.
Closed for lunch 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

City Heights Dental Clinic
Phone: (619) 515-2442

Monday-Friday: 8:15 a.m.-5 p.m.

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