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Community Health Center expands in Plainfield, Vt.

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PLAINFIELD, Vt. — Cathy Marsha of Barre was bused in for a doctor's appointment on Monday and will return next month for a dental appointment, all at the Health Center in Plainfield.

It's one of Vermont's eight federally qualified health centers that offer mostly rural patients medical and dental care as well as physical therapy and mental health counseling, all at the same site.

"It's all in one," said Marsha, 49.

The staff knows she and her husband, call them by name, and work as a team to provide care, she said. If she needs a tooth pulled, for example, the dental office will check with the medical staff to see if medications for the procedure mesh with the prescriptions she's already taking.

The staff also has called her and her husband at home to check in to see how they might be doing on a new medication or if they haven't been feeling well. And the bus picks them up and delivers them back to Barre, a big help for Marsha, who's in a wheelchair.

Now the Health Center, which was first incorporated as a nonprofit in 1974 and governed by a board, has expanded, adding a $1.2 million building that will house more mental health services, yoga classes and space for a mobile dental program.

"We don't have enough psychiatrists getting into rural America. We gotta work on that, but this clearly is a step forward in dealing with what is clearly a serious issue especially in the middle of a recession," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, at the building's dedication on Monday. "People are hurting, people have psychological needs, they have substance abuse, they have marital problems and we will be able to help those people in this new facility," said Sanders who has pushed for support for community health centers.

The Plainfield facility also will offer a trial run of classes in introduction in yoga, tai chi and meditation, said director Dr. John Matthew.

In the last 10 years, Vermont has gone from having two federally qualified health centers to eight, including 47 sites where more than 120,000 Vermonters get primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs. The Plainfield facility serves 9,000 patients.

"What you are doing here is a model for what primary health care, especially in rural areas of the United States of America should be," Sanders said. "This is the future of cost effective, high quality, community based primary health care."