Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nashville seeks site to add fourth clinic for women, children

4 locations studied after public outcry kills idea of locating WIC center at Hickory Hollow Mall By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • December 28, 2009 The Metro Public Health Department has identified four possible locations to put a new Women, Infants and Children clinic in Antioch after a public outcry prevented the program from moving into the Hickory Hollow Mall. Health officials had been in talks with the mall since June to open the center to provide nutrition counseling and food vouchers for low-income families. More than 43 percent of Davidson County's WIC participants live in Antioch, but the closest clinic, in the Woodbine community, is 20 minutes away and even longer by bus. Metro Council almost approved a contract for the new location this month, but neighbors rallied against it, saying the mall was not the right place. Council members agreed after 200 residents showed up at a community meeting and protested, saying the clinic would drive away business and drive down property values. The proposal was squashed at a council meeting two weeks ago. "Transportation is a real issue for our families," said Bart Perkey, director of health services access for the health department. "We wanted to locate a clinic in close proximity to where we have a lot of our WIC participants. Now, we are looking at other properties in the Antioch area." Hickory Hollow Mall seemed liked an ideal spot because the health agency could get a good rental rate for about 2,800 square feet, while the mall, which has struggled to keep tenants, would fill an empty spot. Perkey wasn't prepared to identify the locations being considered. The health department wants to work with council members and the community to make sure the WIC clinic is in the right spot. An estimated 75 families will use the location each day. There are three WIC locations in Davidson County: the Woodbine clinic, one in East Nashville and a downtown site. Grateful for help Benita Thompson, a Nashville mother of five, knows the benefit of a close WIC office. She is thankful she has the downtown WIC office five minutes from her home so she can make sure her 4-month-old daughter, Kevena, has the $14-a-can special formula she needs. "I couldn't afford that formula," Thompson said. "All my money and food stamps are budgeted out." She was grateful to be able to get fruits and vegetables while pregnant. "I was healthy, and my baby was born healthy," she said. "I didn't have any problems. I don't know what I would do without WIC." Councilman Sam Coleman, whose district includes Hickory Hollow Mall, got behind residents to support their concerns about WIC in the mall. He agrees that the WIC program, and especially a full-service health clinic, is needed in Antioch — just not in the mall. There is no money right now for the full clinic, but Coleman says he won't give up. "We need that clinic, just not at that location," Coleman said. "It was a tough decision. We need to return the mall to a viable status, but that does not include letting a WIC office go in." The new WIC location will be made possible because of a $500,000 grant through the Tennessee Department of Health. The money was given to Metro for the growth in the WIC program, which serves more than 300,000 people each year. Coleman said he would go on a ride-along with Dr. Bill Paul, Metro health director, to see other potential locations in January. The Metro Council will again have to approve the final contract. "We will pick out sites and see if those sites will fit inside their budget, and then meet with the other council members and the residents," Coleman said. "It will not go along the same track again."

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