PORTSMOUTH – The dawn of the next chapter in Families First’s history is imminent, with the official opening of the newest non-profit home of the Community Health Center’s community slated for the end of the month.
The celebration of the facility and increased services for the Centre, which trace its origins back to Portsmouth Regional Hospital dating back to 1984, has already begun.
A ribbon-cutting party for the new Families First space took place at 8 Greenleaf Woods Drive amid a snowstorm Friday, attended by many health, local and state leaders. The 16,000-square-foot space, formerly home to the Seacoast Sports Club, offers Family First exam rooms, dental labs, and offers many new services to local patients.
Families First, which is currently located on the community campus and under the umbrella of the Great Sea Coast Community Health Network, will officially open its new doors on January 31.
“At one point, the space was just enough and it was enough, but we are growing so much that we have had to relocate,” said Janet Latch, executive director of community health at Greater Seacoast, of the Community Campus.
Lach previously told the Portsmouth Herald that a “friendly donor” had bought the Greenleaf Woods Drive building and invited families first to become a tenant, though she did not share the cost of that sale.
Data provided by Family First, which serves all patients regardless of economic status, shows that the nonprofit’s public capital campaign brought in nearly $2.1 million for the project.
The event was attended by two New Hampshire Democratic senators, Jane Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with Mayor Dijlan MacKiachern, Senator Tom Sherman, D-Rye, and Executive Counsellor Janet Stevens, R-Rye, chief medical officer of NHS. Family First Dr. . Juan Buonomano, benefactors and others.
Hassan noted the challenges facing hospitals and health care workers across Granite State amid the rising COVID-19 omicron variable, as he encouraged vaccines and people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act marketplace before the open enrollment period expires on January 15.
“This is the kind of primary care, integrated and focused program that we really need to see more and more of and I am so proud of the work that Family First is doing,” she said.
What are the services that will be provided in the new Families First website?
Construction of the new site, which is being overseen by WJP development in Portsmouth, began in February 2021. In a few weeks, the finishing touches will be complete and the center will be ready to offer its expanded and additional services.
Family First will now have 15 exam rooms on Greenleaf Woods Drive, five more than its current home. The new site will also accommodate the expansion of dental operating rooms, which will rise from three rooms in the current site to five in the new complex.
The nonprofit estimates that with the expansion of dentistry and Medicare, there will be an additional 11,375 patient visits annually.
Families will first host a Strength Over Stigma (SOS) Recovery Center and an on-site pharmacy, as well as space for substance use disorder treatment groups to congregate and for a family practice residency program at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.
Although there are SOS Recovery Center sites in Hampton, Dover and Rochester, the Family First site will be the first of its kind in Portsmouth.
Families First says the center’s new home, albeit with appropriate public health protocols, will be able to accommodate approximately 75 employees, a slight increase from the current capacity on the community campus.
MacKiachern, who attended the mayor’s first ribbon-cutting ceremony, which opened with eight other city council members earlier this week, said he was very proud to see the Families First project pay off.
“We are as strong as a community is as our families are, and I think everyone knows when someone you love is sick or needs care, it really affects your family,” he said. “So having something like this here for all members of our community to enjoy is great.”
How many new patients can Family First serve?
Current statistics from families first show that the center treats 19,000 patients annually. By 2024, its leaders expect that they will receive an additional 3,500 on an annual basis.
While a significant portion of patients seeking Medicare from Family First, while it is open to all, are low-income residents.
The federal poverty level for a family of four is $26,500. Fams First reports that 23% of its patients live below the national poverty line.
About half of Family First patients are covered by Medicaid, although 14% of patients are uninsured.
“Let’s make sure everyone in New Hampshire has a primary care provider,” Buonomano said. “It is very important.”
What is the history of families first?
In 1984, the Portsmouth Prenatal Clinic was established at City Hospital, now Portsmouth Regional Hospital, a program that later added a family center, parental assistance program, and extensive primary care services.
Eventually, the families were first renamed from the Grand Sea Coast, and the center and its programs later moved to the community campus site in 1999. In efforts to serve the local homeless population, Family First received its first federal grant which eventually established its own mobile health service.
Over the years, the mobile health unit has come to include primary health, dental and mental health care, as well as providing substance abuse counseling and coordinating care for the homeless and other local vulnerable groups.
In January 2018, families first merged with Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth to form the Great Seacoast Community Health Network. Six months later, Lilac City Pediatrics of Rochester joined the network.
Having served nearly 18,000 patients across its three community health centers, the network employs a total of 275 employees and operates on an annual budget of $20.2 million.
Open enrollment will end soon: here’s how to sign up
Available through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, open registrations close to closing next Saturday, January 15th. Registration began on November 1, 2021.
“With the deadline for signing up for Medicare insurance through the ACA quickly approaching, I hope Granite Staters will take advantage of the reasonable premiums they have struggled to pass and sign up for life-saving coverage,” Shaheen said in a prepared statement.
Open Registration Help: health.gov.