By Brian Toomey, CEO

It has become a tradition for us, in the first newsletter of the new year, to let readers know about major changes in store for the upcoming year. We are constantly growing and improving, so there is always so much to tell you about.

This year is no exception. Here are some things that will happen in 2017:

Expansion and relocation of corporate office: With all the growth in the services we offer, the corporate office that manages all of these services is bursting at the seams. Sometime in the spring, we are moving to a new space in Chapel Hill that will give us almost double the space we have now in our offices in Carrboro.

The new space will be temporary; we know what our needs are now but, with all of the uncertainty in health care policy, especially at the federal level with a new administration coming in this month, we want to be sure of where policy is going before we make permanent office changes.

Expansion of the Carrboro Community Health Center: Our corporate offices share a building with the Carrboro CHC so, by moving the corporate offices, we will be able to increase our clinical presence at that location by 50 percent. With the help of a federal grant from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, we will increase its size from about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet. Among the service improvements is a renovated dental area that will go from three to six chairs.

Expanding our Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE): We will be expanding SeniorCare at Pittsboro, one of our two PACE sites, to respond to anticipated growth. This expansion was envisioned when that facility was built in 2013 and the building will easily allow it.

As we expand the Pittsboro facility, we will also be researching other options for expanding this popular and much-needed program, which allows older patients to receive care from a team of specialists at our centers and at their homes as they age so that they do not have to move to nursing homes. Options for PACE include expanding our Burlington site and/or adding a third site.

Expanded staff and budget: In 2017, our operating budget will increase to $63 million, an increase of $8.5 million, and our workforce will increase to 550, an increase of 60 staff members.

Operational changes: We will be making various improvements both internally and externally. Internally, we will reinstate our employee wellness program and make a renewed effort to focus on employee wellness. Externally, we are rolling out a strategy that we developed in 2016, based on employee and board feedback. The strategy has three focus areas – the community, the workplace and stability.

Planning for 2018 and beyond: Among the in-depth planning we will do this year is looking for a permanent space for the new Chapel Hill Community Health Center. While the space that opened last year is serving a vital need, it is not sufficient in the long term; for instance, we do not have space for pharmacy services at that site. That’s something we are planning to change.

Of course, with all the changes, a lot will remain the same in 2017. We will continue to offer high-quality medical care and other services to the entire community, regardless of ability to pay. Our approach will continue to be offering the right care at the right place at the right cost.

The uncertainty that has marked health-care policy in the last four or five years has not stopped us before and it won’t stop us now. We have been able to achieve our goals by working closely with local, state and federal elected officials as well as with the community. We will absolutely continue to do that.