The Outer Banks Voice Health Center – New Manteo aims to open in the spring

The new Manteo Health Center is aiming to open in the spring

By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on December 6, 2022

CEO provides update on health task force

Executive Director Joe Rockenstein unveiled the plan for the health center at a September meeting in Manteo.

A federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Manteo is slated to open sometime next spring, according to Joe Rockenstein, CEO of the Ocracoke and Englehard, N.C., health centers.

Rockenstein provided the update during the Dec. 6 meeting of the Manteo Healthcare Task Force, where he said his organization, which includes the two nearby health centers and is managed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), plans to sign a lease for 402 Budleigh Street and begin work on renovating the building and getting HRSA approval by the end of December.

“After months of discussion and weighing options, my board of directors has determined that it would be best for us, as a matter of expediency, to lease the building,” Rockenstein told the task force at the meeting. “At least in the short term, and maybe longer, it will meet our needs in providing medical services in this area.”

“My initial time frame and hope is that by the spring, at some point, we can be operational and accepting patients at that point. So that’s not too far off,” he added.

The news of a new health center in Manteo comes amid what some have described as a health care crisis in the Outer Banks. This spring, more than 2,400 patients at Outer Banks Family Medicine in Manteo were notified they could no longer receive care there because of a physician shortage.

Since then, Outer Banks Hospital and Outer Bank Medical Group have worked to expand primary care services in Manteo, as well as elsewhere in the northern Outer Banks.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are facilities that apply for and receive federal grants and whose responsibility it is to serve underserved populations. Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), FQHCs have a mission to create whole-person care—that integrates physical, mental, and dental health care—without any financial barriers, and to bridge the health care gap for Medicaid, Medicare , uninsured and underinsured persons.

Due to its funding structure and mission, the clinic will charge fees based on the patient’s income for both insured and uninsured patients.

“First and foremost, regardless of ability to pay, there are no barriers to care and there never will be,” Rockenstein stressed. What allows FQHCs to do this, he explained in an interview with the Voice earlier this fall, is grant funding from the federal government, as well as FQHCs’ ability to receive increased Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement.

Once operational, the three centers – Ocracoke, Englehard and Roanoke Island – will be part of a larger entity. In 2014, the Ocracoke and Engelhard locations merged into one organization and have since operated as federally sponsored health centers.

Rockenstein told the task force that his organization will begin hiring contractors for the site’s design and renovations and will also advertise to fill between six to eight positions at the center.

He noted that Dr. Jennifer Harrison, a local physician and former provider at Outer Banks Family Medicine in Manteo, will be on staff and assist with interviews to ensure the right providers are brought in. Rockenstein said he is working with East Carolina University School of Dentistry to potentially attract recent graduates to the island.

His organization, he added, is also developing an integrated mental health program to provide mental health services.

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