This month we feature The Oneonta Community Health Center and their work.
The Oneonta Community Health Center (OCHC) has provided needed primary care for the Oneonta community at no cost for over fifteen years. The OCHC also provides access to other health services such as mental health professionals, lab work, prescriptions, gender-affirming care, nutrition and dietary needs, vision referrals, and management for long-term conditions such as diabetes and COPD. Additionally, in 2013, the Center began offering referrals for dental care to patients whose health is affected by dental deficiencies. Anyone in need, including those who are undocumented, can call and schedule an appointment with an OCHC physician, and patients are seen during office hours every Tuesday.
The OCHC is funded through donations from community members and by grants obtained by its board of directors and the Friends of the Oneonta Community Health Center (FOCHC). The Center is staffed by volunteers, including registered nurses, who provide the same level of care of hospitals and private practices. Basset Healthcare helpfully covers the cost of medical malpractice insurance for nurse-practitioners and volunteer physicians who are on rotation at the Center.
Dr. Benjamin Friedell founded the OCHC in 2007, in coordination with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta (UUSO). Dr. Friedell had followed in his family’s footsteps and became a family physician like his father, grandfather and older brother, and the Unitarian Church approached him in 2005 with the intention of helping provide healthcare to uninsured and the OCHC was conceived. Since then, the OCHC has provided quality health care, even in times of uncertainty like the COVID-19 epidemic and has established a reputation in the community as a reliable and compassionate organization.
From the early days, Dr. Friedell remembers one patient who affirmed the mission of the OCHC. “A young man sought care for an undiagnosed condition which kept him being employed and achieving a basic quality of life.” Friedell determined the man had an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). After a few weeks of care and a treatment plan, the man re-entered the workforce and gained a quality of life that had long eluded him. “This man had a treatable condition and the cost kept him from seeking medical attention. I will never forget how grateful he was after seeing us, and I find myself thinking of him often.”
While many physicians and healthcare professionals volunteer at the OCHC, Dr. Friedell remains a constant. When asked about the OCHC’s future he replies, “I’ve always said the ultimate goal is for the Center to go out of business.” While the Affordable Care Act has addressed some of the lack of medical care in our community the need for the Center remains. The OCHC and Dr. Friedell remain cautiously optimistic that eventually the Center will become obsolete, but until then they are dedicated to filling the void and helping as many people as they can.
The Oneonta Community Health Center is located at 31 Main Street, Suite 2A, Oneonta, NY, 13820. Office hours are every Tuesday 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. For information on how to donate or volunteer, please visit www.oneontahealthcenter.org To schedule an appointment call OCHC at 607-433-0300.
Content provided by Susan Kenny.
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