Note: “One of The Best Things in Richland County This Week” is an occasional series from the Public Information Office highlighting County department-related human interest stories that make a difference in our community.
Lower Richland residents no longer have to travel to Columbia to meet their health needs as Richland County helped bring a major medical provider to the area to improve the community’s access to care.
The Hopkins community wanted a modern, easy-to-access medical facility and Monday Richland County representatives, community leaders and health officials gathered to celebrate the opening of the Hopkins Family Practice – a milestone for the area. The County’s Community Development Department secured the federal funds to build the facility and reached an agreement with the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers (ECCHC) to operate it.
“The Lower Richland area has been medically underserved for years and this facility will go a long way in helping to improve the health outcomes of individuals,” said Dalton Tresvant, Midlands area director for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s office, one of several speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony which also served as the kick off to National Community Development Week.
The Hopkins Family Practice – a nearly $800,000 project that will serve low income, underinsured and uninsured patients – was years in the making. The need for a medical provider in the unincorporated area was identified during a number of County public hearings conducted as part of the Community Development Department's five-year plan completed in August 2012. Until the opening of the medical facility, many residents in Lower Richland drove to downtown Columbia for free or low-cost care.
“We heard from the citizens,” said Valeria Jackson, director of the County’s Community Development Department. “They wanted this facility.”
The project was funded through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The medical facility is one of several projects Richland County’s Community Development Department has administered. One of the largest projects was the $2.6 million wastewater treatment plant in Lower Richland.
“But this one will be more visible to the community,” Jackson said of the new medical center on Garners Ferry Road near Lower Richland Crossing. Richland County’s CDBG allocation supports projects only in the unincorporated areas of the County.
ECCHC will operate the new facility and oversee the staff, which will include a family medicine physician and a pediatrician. ECCHC, a non-profit, community health center system, is the largest non-hospital provider of primary care in the Midlands and operates a CDBG-funded center in Columbia and one in Lexington County.
Dr. Stuart Hamilton, CEO of ECHCC, introduced the staff – including pediatrician Dr. Ugochia Cantave and family medicine practitioner Dr. Ezra Ash – who will work in the facility he called a gift to the community. Hopkins Family Practice will serve about 9,000 people, he said.
Norman Jackson, Chair of the Richland County Council, emphasized how vital the use of federal dollars was to making the facility a reality for people in Lower Richland.
“This facility is affordable healthcare,” he said. “It’s helping the community.”
To schedule an appointment at the Hopkins Family Practice, 9023 Garners Ferry Road, residents may call (803) 978-1848. No insurance is required.