Medical Assistant Hannah Auton shows the new refrigerators in the GFHS lab.

The medical clinic formerly known as Helping Hands Health Center is moving into a new facility and with the new building comes new services and a new name -- Gaston Family Health Services Lincolnton Family Medicine (GFHS).

Since 2003, the clinic has provided medical, dental and behavioral health services for the uninsured and those who don’t qualify for government assistance. Although GFHS is no longer a free clinic, the facility still takes patients regardless of their ability to pay. They use a sliding scale system for the uninsured that can start as low as $25. That gives patients access to less-expensive medications through GFHS Lincolnton’s pharmacy.

The clinic also accepts patients with insurance. Due to their status as a Fairly Qualified Healthcare Center, they get reimbursed differently than a regular primary care clinic. According to Practice Manager Brooke Weatherford, one insured patient pays for two patients without insurance.

The clinic started in a small space with just a curtain for privacy and eventually moved into donated space inside the Medical Arts building on Gamble Drive in Lincolnton. The new location is a stand-alone building just a stone’s throw away from the old offices.

The clinic was awarded a $1 million federal grant in 2016 to help pay for the 6,000 square-foot facility. Now the clinic has eight examination rooms, a procedure room, a larger pharmacy and medical lab.

The new building doesn’t just mean extra space. New services will be available at the same low cost. Plans are in the works for a women’s clinic in late Spring that offers colposcopy, an examination performed with a special device that can detect signs of disease such as cervical cancer. Dr. Kimberly Howe calls it a “huge advantage for our patients.”

The expanded lab will allow for medical assistants to run multiple tests at once. They’ll be able to do blood work onsite instead of sending patients to the hospital. The clinic will soon offer vaccines for the first time. The expanded space provides the clinic’s first procedure room, a conference room and the ability to expand their reception and checkout areas.

According to Weatherford, plans are in the works to expand the pharmacy’s hours to full time. She hopes that, considering the clinic’s proximity to the Health Department and the county’s future government center, Transportation Lincoln County will add them as a permanent stop on their route. Currently, patients can call ahead with a request to stop at the clinic.

Weatherford pointed out that transportation can be a problem for many of their patients. Some will walk to their appointments, which can skew their test results.

Gaston Family Health Services Lincolnton Family Medicine is currently open and located at 212 Gamble Drive. They plan to hold an open house on Jan. 23 4-6 p.m. with a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m.

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