A vacant downtown building has provided an opportunity for a local health clinic to expand its operations to serve more patients.

The building at 120 St. Louis Ave. will serve as the Community Health Center of Jackson County Annex with the primary office remaining on the first floor of the Community Agency Building at 113 N. Chestnut. St, just around the block.

Because the building had previously served as the office of Dr. Rosemary Weir, who retired and closed her practice last October, it was already conveniently set up with exam rooms and other amenities needed by the health center, said Amanda Bieber, practice manager. Bieber has been in her position since the end of last June.

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“We wanted to stay close to our other clinic, but mainly it was an opportunity that presented itself at just the right time,” Bieber said. “We wanted to expand for the community, and it just so happens we get to expand in downtown Seymour.

Some of Dr. Weir’s patients have even been able to transfer to the health center so they don’t have to visit a new office, Bieber added. The health center is also currently accepting new patients.

The Community Health Center of Jackson County opened in 2005 and is operated by Indiana Health Centers Inc. Its original focus was to provide access to health care for those who were uninsured or under-insured.

Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which requires people have health insurance, the center has grown to provide a wide range of health care services to people of all backgrounds and income levels, from pediatrics (infants) to geriatrics (elderly) and primary care for individuals and families. Dental services also are offered.

In 2015, more than 12,000 patients were seen at the health center, Bieber said.

That growth, which has been aided by the retirement of two or three area doctors, is what led to the need for more staff and space, Bieber added.

“Indiana Health Centers did an assessment of the needs for community health centers, and found that we needed it,” she said of the expansion.

The health center has added a new medical doctor who specializes in geriatrics and two nurse practitioners, along with support staff, totaling around six new employees altogether, some of whom are bilingual, to serve the Latino population, Bieber said.

“This space is definitely a lot bigger than what we had,” Bieber said. “Over there we had four exam rooms we were using and here we have 10.”

The additional space allows for doctors to be able to see patients faster, she added.

Any specialty services, such as obstetrics/gynecology, that a patient may require, are referred to other local providers, such as those at Schneck Medical Center, she said.

Although some minor changes and interior updates may take place at the new annex office, Bieber said no major renovation work is needed, which allows providers to begin seeing patients there beginning today.

Staff spent all day Friday moving items from the Schneck Rehabilitation Office on South Walnut Street, where the annex has been leasing office space since October 2014.

Providers and support staff are excited about the move and thrilled to have more room to meet clients needs, Bieber said.

The expansion is all about increasing access to health care services to the community. That is why the center also is offering extended hours at the new office. The annex will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

The other office on Chestnut Street will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

Saturday hours at both sites will be added soon, Bieber said.

Early on, Bieber said she expects some confusion with patients not knowing which office to visit.

“It will take some time to get adjusted, but there will be staff at both buildings that can help direct patients where they need to be,” Bieber said.

A public open house for the new annex is being planned for the spring.

At a glance

Community Health Center of Jackson County Annex

120 St. Louis Ave, formerly the office of Dr. Rosemary Weir

Now accepting new patients.

Hours: The annex will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Saturday hours are coming in February.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.