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Mont Alto clinic wants to educate patients

February 23, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - For 15 years the people who run Mont Alto Family Practice clinic have provided their patients with primary medical care, but they have long wanted to do more to help them stay healthy between office visits.

Elena Kehoe, a certified nurse-midwife at the clinic, said many patients, especially the elderly and low-income, were not getting information on important between-visit issues such as proper nutrition and fitness, and that kind of counseling is typically not covered by insurance.

"The clinic is busy. It couldn't afford to provide that kind of care on its own," Kehoe said.

So last year, the clinic's four principals - Kehoe and its three physicians, Drs. Diana and Greg Lyon Loftus and Kehoe's husband, Dr. Garrett Blanchet - set up the nonprofit Mont Alto Rural Educational Institute to fill the void.

Kehoe spent much of the last year researching the area's needs so she could include them in the institute's application for a $600,000 grant from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

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If the grant is approved, the money would come in over a 3-year period and be used to set up the new institute's programs.

The institute will operate from an office in the clinic at 6155 Anthony Highway. The building is being expanded to make room for the institute's offices, which will remain separate from the clinic.

Kehoe will run the institute until it can support itself and its own staff.

Mont Alto Family Practice, designated by the federal government as a rural health clinic, serves the populations of Quincy Township, the boroughs of Mont Alto and South Mountain, along with the Waynesboro area, all of which is classified as medically underserved.

Kehoe said Summit Health, which owns Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals, offers programs similar to what the new institute hopes to provide, but many clinic patients are reluctant to go to an unfamiliar hospital. "They're used to coming to this clinic," she said.

According to Kehoe's research, gleaned from demographic studies by the Franklin County Area Development Corp., 48 percent of the people over age 25 in Quincy Township did not graduate from high school. The average annual income in the township is $25,000. The average for all of Franklin County is $31,000.

In addition to helping individual patients, the institute would become a medical clearinghouse to help organizations and individuals find funding and expertise for projects relating to health education, wellness and research.

The institute is seeking funds to set up a health resource center or library for public use, Kehoe said. It would use books, video and Internet, Kehoe said.

If the grant isn't awarded to the institute, the services will still be established, only on a smaller scale, she said.

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