Oklahoma City builds new health center in former Sequoyah elementary school


Primary care services are soon arriving at what was once an elementary school in northwest Oklahoma City, the latest development in the building’s transformation into a community health and wellness center.

The former Sequoyah Elementary School, located at 2400 NW 36, is home to the newest Variety Care clinic as part of a partnership with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. The clinic already offers services to adolescents, as well as testing, treatment and prevention services for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Its family medicine services will be launched in January.

The clinic space doesn’t look like a school at all, at least inside – where there used to be classrooms, there are now examination rooms and bright offices.

The Oklahoma City-County Department of Health took the opportunity to move into Sequoyah and Oakridge elementary schools when, a few years ago, Oklahoma City public schools were consolidating and finding new ones. uses for some of its campuses, said Patrick McGough, executive director of the health department. .

“It was a combination of a great opportunity and a great need,” he said. “We had already tried and created a plan to increase access to care at the neighborhood level.”

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In 2019, as part of the school district’s Pathway to Greatness plan, OKCPS is committed to finding new uses for 15 school buildings, which have now become child care centers, offices and more, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said in a statement.

“Today, all 15 buildings have been reused in a significant way, and OKCPS could not be happier to see that Variety Care and OCCHD have transformed the old Sequoyah Elementary School building into a health and wellness center. – being a community that makes a difference for so many people in our city, ”McDaniel said.

Phil Burke, Director of HIV and Viral Hepatitis Services for Variety Care, in the new clinic location inside the old Sequoyah Elementary School.

Phil Burke, medical assistant and director of Variety Care’s HIV and Viral Hepatitis Services Department, said the Sequoyah site is a prime location to reach patients – and a dream location for him, having grown up in the region. Burke treats patients with HIV and AIDS as well as hepatitis B and C, and “we’re in the middle of an epidemic either way,” he said.

“HIV and AIDS have always had an excessive impact on the LGBTQ community, and this is a very LGBTQ-centric area,” said Burke. It is an area that lacks health resources in general, “but also an area where many patients can live and feel more comfortable seeking treatment, because it is at home, it is in their neighborhood.

CEO Lou Carmichael talks about Variety Care's new location inside the former Sequoyah Elementary School in Oklahoma City.

The clinic’s family medicine practice – which will cover everything from prenatal care to geriatric care – will also have an integrated mental health professional working alongside other providers.

“When you screen for depression and anxiety in Oklahoma, you’re going to find it,” said Lou Carmichael, CEO of Variety Care. “Six times out of ten you’re going to find it. ”

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Carmichael said that if providers can provide a “warm passage” – when a primary care provider presents a patient to a mental health professional – the patient is much more likely to return for follow-up care.

She expects the family medicine schedule to fill up quickly at the new site, given its central location. Primary care, where important health check-ups take place, is a crucial part of a person’s health, Carmichael said.

An exam room inside the new Variety Care location inside the former Sequoyah Elementary School in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

“So much of what happens to us after [age] 50 is totally tied to what we did before 50, ”she said. “So to enter into a relationship with a [primary care provider] who’s watching you over time and who knows where your baseline is is really important. “

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In addition to the Variety Care Clinic, the City-County Health Department also houses its Children first program, which provides education and support for first-time mothers, and its food and environmental service, at the site of the old school, McGough said.

Variety Care's new location inside the former Sequoyah Elementary School in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.

Over time, the health department plans to examine health data by zip code to determine the impact of the Sequoyah site and other similar sites, including Oakridge Elementary, on the health of residents in the surrounding area.

Inside the community space are also the Boys and Girls Club, which has activities for children, and the Salvation Army, which provides meals to the elderly on-site.

“We’re just thrilled to have all of the partners out there,” McGough said. “They meet multiple needs in one place, and it’s just a win-win for everyone.”

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