Williamsport voters ready for Monday

March 02, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Joanne Cochran, an ex-nun, opened Keystone Health Center in 1986 in an old school building on Third Street. She had a $60,000 government grant, a handful of volunteers and the desire to minister to about 800 seasonal migrant farm workers.

"We started with three stethoscopes and one little desk," Cochran said.

Today the clinic is at 1331 Seventh St. in Chambersburg. With a full-time staff of 60, including four physicians, the clinic runs on a $3.3 million annual budget and provides health care to more than 12,000 medical and 4,000 dental patients a year.

Keystone is also bursting at the seams.

Next month Cochran will break ground for a new center at the corner of Norland and Fifth avenues. The new facility will cover 17,000 square feet, nearly triple the space on Seventh Street, and will cost more than $2 million to build and equip, Cochran said.


She said the center is facing a critical time because of the limited space at Seventh Street. She said the number of patients will grow to 20,000 in the next five years.

"Demand for care is increasing at an alarming rate of 170 new patients a month," she said.

Cochran said the number of Hispanics, blacks, other minorities and the poor is growing in Franklin County and surrounding areas.

She said minorities moved first from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other big cities to smaller cities like York, Pa., and Frederick, Md. and then to Chambersburg. "They're coming here because we have an open-door policy."

The center is the primary medical and dental health care facility for the under-served, uninsured and disadvantaged in Franklin County, Cochran said. "We take care of the people who fall through the cracks," she said.

In its early years, the center served mainly migrants. Since 1992 it has been taking in anyone who needs health care, Cochran said. "Traditional patients now take advantage of Keystone's quality and comprehensive services," she said.

A breakdown shows that 44 percent of the center's patients are on Medicaid, 8 percent are on Medicare, 26 percent have private insurance and 22 percent are the working poor who pay according to their ability, Cochran said.

 The ethnic mix includes 10 percent Hispanic, 11 percent black and 75 percent white.

Cochran said she hopes to raise $1 million of the cost of the new center. The rest of the money will come from a low-interest loan.

So far, Cochran said, she's collected $200,000 from Summit Health, owner of Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals; $125,000 from the Wood Foundation, a local philanthropic organization; and $100,000 from Keystone's own board of directors and staff.

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