The Wright Center News The Wright Centers Expand Presence in Luzerne County The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education will increase access to high-quality, comprehensive, affordable primary health services and health care career development opportunities through relocation and expansion of their Kingston primary care and workforce development center into downtown Wilkes-Barre. The Wright Center for Community Health recently completed the purchase and is repurposing a 34,460-square-foot building at 169 N. Pennsylvania Ave. The more than 3-acre site enables the nonprofit community health center to expand opportunities for regional residents to receive integrated, whole-person primary health care at one convenient location. The new primary care clinic will educate primary care physicians, medical students, and interprofessional health students from regionally and nationally affiliated academic institutions. The center will open Monday, Jan. 9, at 8 a.m. “We are honored to have this opportunity in Luzerne County to expand the delivery of our mission to improve the health and welfare of the communities we serve through inclusive and responsive health services and the sustainable renewal of an inspired and competent workforce that is privileged to serve,” said Linda Thomas-Hemak, M.D., FACP, FAAP, president and CEO of The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education. “We are grateful for and inspired by Gov. Tom Wolf’s validating, generous Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program award. “We are also grateful to and inspired by our supportive governmental and legislative leaders, Sordoni Construction, and all of our partners who made this development project in Wilkes-Barre possible. We look forward to giving back through the regional and local community benefit impact we deliver,” Dr. Thomas-Hemak added. “Together, we are building a preferred future in which everyone will benefit from a health system that prioritizes equity, quality, and affordability of comprehensive primary health care services and career opportunities. “Our deep investment into Wilkes-Barre will enable The Wright Center to grow our operations and our collaborative, interprofessional relationships to ensure everyone in the service area has equitable access to whole-person primary health services, regardless of their ZIP code, insurance status, or ability to pay. We are equally committed to pipeline, community-driven partnerships to open up dream mapping about health care career opportunities, so the demographics of our future health care workforce can better and more inclusively reflect the demographics of our regional community,” she added. In 2019, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) designated The Wright Center for Community Health as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike, providing resources that allow the nonprofit organization to further assist medically underserved rural and urban communities and vulnerable populations, including people who are underinsured and uninsured. With a sliding-fee discount program available, The Wright Center reduces barriers to care by ensuring health care is affordable for everyone in need, regardless of their ability to pay. The Wright Center’s network of clinics in Northeast Pennsylvania primarily serves patients from Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming counties. The Wright Center is no stranger to Luzerne County. The enterprise has operated teaching health centers in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston for many years and partnered on several public health initiatives with community resource agencies. The Wright Center for Community Health has utilized its 34-foot mobile medical unit, better known as Driving Better Health, to further address barriers to quality care in several underserved communities, partnering with social service organizations and school districts in lower Luzerne County to deliver routine vaccinations, COVID-19 vaccinations, boosters, and testing to where people live, work, and study. The first phase of the new clinical, educational and administrative center in Wilkes-Barre will be open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on holidays that occur Monday through Saturday. The center has ample, off-street parking and is within walking distance of downtown Wilkes-Barre, the James F. Conahan Intermodal Transportation Center, and public transportation bus stops. It will offer family-friendly primary medical, behavioral, and addiction and recovery services across the lifespan, from pediatrics to geriatrics. Ultimately, its integrated services will offer patients the convenience of going to a single location to access full-service primary medical, dental, behavioral health, addiction and recovery services, and other supportive programs. Over the next several months, The Wright Center will hopefully be adding more than 25 medical examination rooms, 30 behavioral health rooms, and 10 dental operators to increase access. The new facility will also include state-of-the-art conference and learning rooms, complete with audio-visual technology, computers, and more for provider care teams and learners, as well as dedicated space for partnering community resource agencies. The full project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. To make an appointment at The Wright Center for Community Health Wilkes-Barre Practice, call 570-491-0126 or go to TheWrightCenter.org Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, center, discusses how the new Wright Center for Community Health Wilkes-Barre Practice will improve the health and well-being of residents in Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County. New COVID-19 Vaccine Available at The Wright Center Children and infants as young as 6 months old can now receive the updated coronavirus vaccines at several of The Wright Center for Community Health’s primary care practices, increasing their defense against sickness during the upcoming holiday season and new year. Nationally, health officials have in recent weeks reported a surge of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, more commonly known as RSV. Hospitals in some areas have returned to operating at or near capacity levels due to the sharp rise in seasonal illnesses. Meanwhile, certain cold medications are in short supply, and officials in several large U.S. cities are again urging indoor masking. Lackawanna and Luzerne counties were classified as “low” for community spread of COVID-19 as of Dec. 8. New cases, though, had trended higher in the weeks since Thanksgiving. And, Susquehanna County’s community level is currently “high,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “As winter’s official start draws near, and more activities are conducted indoors, we hope to see more families taking the opportunity to safeguard their health, especially now that adults, children, and even many infants are eligible to get the most up-to-date vaccines,” said Dr. Jignesh Sheth, chief medical officer of The Wright Center for Community Health. Vaccines are the most powerful tool against the highly contagious virus, with demonstrated effectiveness during the pandemic in reducing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The updated boosters, also called bivalent vaccines, offer protection against the original strain of COVID-19 as well as the now-prevalent omicron sub-variants that account for most new infections in the United States. The Moderna-made pediatric booster is available for individuals ages 6 months through 5 years. Children are eligible for the Moderna booster two months after completing their final primary series dose. Similarly, the Pfizer bivalent vaccine has been approved for children ages 6 months through 4 years old; it will be given as a third primary dose. People can schedule appointments by visiting The Wright Center’s website at TheWrightCenter.org and using the express online scheduling service or by calling 570.230.0019. Locations currently offering the updated pediatric boosters include the Kingston Practice, the Mid Valley Practice in Jermyn, and the Scranton Practice. A patient may choose to receive the booster shot with or without a vital sign assessment and/or primary care office visit, for which out-of-pocket expenses might be billed by the patient’s health insurance provider. Adults and children 6 months and older also are encouraged to get an annual flu shot. All available flu vaccines in the U.S. for the 2022-23 season are the quadrivalent variety, meaning they are designed to protect against four different flu viruses. Appointments to receive the flu vaccine can be made at any of The Wright Center’s locations in Northeast Pennsylvania. The Wright Center for Community Health, headquartered in Scranton, is a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike that operates eight primary care practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wayne counties. The Wright Center provides comprehensive primary and preventive health services – including medical, dental, behavioral health, addiction and recovery, and infectious disease services – that cover the lifespan from pediatrics to geriatrics. The Wright Center’s sliding-fee discount program ensures health care is affordable for everyone in need. No patient is turned away due to an inability to pay. The Wright Center Presents Healthy MOMS Program to Participants at Conference Maria Kolcharno, LSW, director of addiction services, and Marcella Garvin, Healthy Maternal Opiate Medical Support program lead case manager, at The Wright Center for Community Health, recently collaborated on the presentation, “Healthy MOMS: It Takes a Village,” at the Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s National Family Week Conference at Mohegan Pennsylvania. The presentation provided a forum to discuss the variety of services available in the region and the best practices to advocate and link mothers with substance use disorder to supportive programs for them and their young children. “The presentation focused on the strong foundation we are building of healthy mothers in our community. It’s a collaborative effort among many organizations across nine counties,” said Kolcharno, who also addressed basic facts about addiction, and how mothers can connect with the program and how they gain independent through their own recovery. The Wright Center for Community Health, for example, recently collaborated with Maternal and Family Health Services to share a lactation specialist who serves as a mother’s coach after the child is born. “This population wouldn’t normally get a lactation coach,” said Kolcharno, who is a key leader of the Healthy Maternal Opiate Medical Support program. “A lot of insurance companies will not cover this service. By offering it, we are seeing healthier babies and mothers.” The Healthy MOMS program is part of The Wright Center for Community Health’s Opioid Use Disorder Center. It was co-founded with multiple agencies to assist women who are pregnant and have a substance use disorder. Healthy MOMS provides prenatal, perinatal, and postpartum care, including medication-assisted treatment to women coping with a substance use disorder. The program strives to break the stigma associated with addiction while building patients’ self-esteem during and after their pregnancies, ideally engaging them in recovery support services. Currently there are 149 mothers active in the program, with 204 babies born through the program. Since its founding, more than 300 mothers have participated in the program. For more information about the Healthy MOMS program, call 570.995.7821 or text healthymoms to 555888. Information about the program and its partners is also available at healthymoms.org. Go to thewrightcenter.org/services for information about the Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence. New Pediatrician joins The Wright Center for Community Health Scranton Practice Dr. Prachi Agarwal, a board-certified pediatrician, will join The Wright Center for Community Health Scranton Practice, 501 S. Washington Ave., beginning in January. The Wright Center for Community Health provides primary and specialty care for children of all ages, from newborn check-ups and well visits to vaccinations, school physicals, and overall anticipatory guidance through a child’s developmental stages. Dr. Agarwal earned her medical degree at KLE University, Belgaum, India. She completed her pediatric training and graduated with excellence from Rutgers Health/Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey. She is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and possesses certifications from the Brazelton Touchpoint Parenting Program and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program. The Wright Center was designated a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike in 2019. It offers high-quality, affordable integrated health care at its network of primary care practices in Northeast Pennsylvania, providing patients with the convenience of going to one location to access medical, dental, and behavioral and mental health care, plus addiction treatment and other supportive services. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Agarwal at the Scranton Practice, go to TheWrightCenter.org to use the express online scheduling system or call 570-941-0630.