Johnson listens to report on health center

STUDYING BUILDING PLANS — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and Trudy Wilson, executive director of the Ohio Valley Health Center, look at a detailed building plan for the transformation of the former Neighborhood House day care center into the new home for the Ohio Valley Health Center. Johnson met Wednesday afternoon with Wilson, several staff employees and members of the center’s board of directors. -- Dave Gossett

STEUBENVILLE — Trudy Wilson was ready to show off the next home of the Ohio Valley Health Center to U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson.

And the Republican congressman from Marietta was ready to listen as Wilson, staff employees and members of the center’s board of directors discussed their plans for an expanded free clinic, even as they acknowledged the financial stress they are facing.

“Rob Gribben of Grae-Con Construction is on our board and he brought us an architectural firm that has donated their services in designing the building transformation. Apollo Cleaning and Restoration has donated cleaning, painting and refurbishing services for when we get ready to move here from our offices at Trinity East. Trinity has allowed us to pick out equipment that we will need here, and an interior designer has agreed to donate her services. We hope to be in here by April or May,” explained Wilson, the executive director of the Ohio Valley Health Center.

“We have so many talented people on our board of directors. And an incredible number of very dedicated and good people have made a difference for us,” added board President Francesca Carinci.

“Unfortunately we have a high amount of people in Jefferson County who are underinsured and not insured at all. This place is a Godsend, and it would be wonderful to get the financial backing we need,” said Carinci.

“The need in the Ohio Valley is so significant and we are seeing a growing number of patients,” said Wilson.

According to Keith Murdock of Trinity Health System, “most of the patients who visit the health center face chronic diseases.”

“We are in need of providers who care about the patients. I have a Medicaid patient who told me she doesn’t want to go anywhere else because we care about her. We know them as a person. We know our community and our community resources,” nurse practitioner Denise Lucas told Johnson.

Wilson explained a large portion of the health center’s funding comes from an annual gala.

“When I worked in Columbus we had donors with deep pockets. When I came back home and this job, I found a strong need for fundraising but we don’t have the donors with deep pockets I saw in Columbus. All of our economy is low income and a lot of our budget is in-kind donations,” cited Wilson.

“I have found some of the energy companies look for ways to be community benevolent. You might want to inquire about financial contributions with those folks. We can make introductions and knock on doors for you,” said Johnson.

He told the group one of the major issues facing Congress when the members return to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5 will be Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid.

“Providers are not able to keep taking on more Medicaid patients. The more we require them to add Medicaid patients, the more pressure we put on physicians. It is a double-edged sword. The day is coming when there will not be enough dollars in the pot to cover everyone. Americans just don’t get it,” said Johnson.

“Three-quarters of Americans don’t understand the issue. Medicaid expansion doesn’t help us in this area,” agreed Wilson.

“I am encouraged you understand this and are ready to face the issue. More Medicaid is not the answer. But hope is on the horizon. The current plans for tax reform and infrastructure changes are good stuff. I am hopeful places like Steubenville and other communities in Eastern Ohio will see benefits from the new infrastructure projects. And I will fight tooth and nail to make sure we are included in the new infrastructure plan,” promised Johnson.

(Gossett can be contacted at