Health, Healing and Wholeness

Published 9:50 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

COLERAIN – While many small towns in the rural portions of North Carolina are witnessing a downturn in services, one quaint little village on the banks of the Chowan River is witnessing an economic revival.

On the heels of the recent opening of Café 45, the sounds of construction fill the air on West River Street, the site of a major expansion at Colerain Primary Care.

On Tuesday afternoon, staff members and the Board of Directors of the Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC) formally christened the ongoing work at its Colerain location. There, a $1 million capital funding grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be used to substantially enhance Colerain Primary Care Center.

The building expansion will add 3,376 square feet, which includes an in-house pharmacy, four additional exam rooms, expand the community nutrition site, and a designated space for behavioral health and nutrition/patient education.

The improvements will also stretch outdoors, adding a large number of parking spaces, more handicapped parking spaces, and a new entrance with an automatic door opener for ambulance access. In addition, more medical providers will be brought on staff to meet the health demands of the area’s population.

Kim Schwartz, CEO of RCCHC, observed the irony of holding a groundbreaking ceremony in the middle of National Community Health Center Week.

As evident in this photo, the expansion to Colerain Primary Care is well underway. The work will add 3,376 square feet and include an in-house pharmacy, four additional exam rooms, expand the community nutrition site, and a designated space for behavioral health and nutrition/patient education.

As evident in this photo, the expansion to Colerain Primary Care is well underway. The work will add 3,376 square feet and include an in-house pharmacy, four additional exam rooms, expand the community nutrition site, and a designated space for behavioral health and nutrition/patient education.

“Our primary healthcare is a pretty big picture as it involves your primary healthcare doctor along with oral health through our partnership with the ECU School of Dental Medicine, behavioral health, medication assistance with an in-house pharmacy, pediatrics, and community outreach with medical workers in the field,” Schwartz said.

She added that dental hygienists would be added to the staff at Colerain Primary Care on certain days of the week.

Schwartz said Colerain Primary Care was born in 2007 in a tiny environment….a trailer sitting on land donated by the Town of Colerain

“Did you know that Colerain Primary Care is the only location in North Carolina that is co-located with a county’s Senior Nutrition Site,” Schwartz said. “That’s what a community health center is all about….connecting with the community it serves and finding out what their needs are.”

The idea of expanding the Colerain office came based on a few sad facts, highlighted by one-third of its clients have no means other than their own two feet to get to the facility.

“They have to walk to receive medical care; that’s a hard thing to imagine,” said Schwartz. “If they are forced to walk to come here, then how are they getting their prescriptions filled; how are they receiving other care?”

She stressed that through the stewardship of the RCCHC Board and their desire to reach out to the communities served by the organization, a plan was developed to expand Colerain Primary Care.

“You can’t do this alone; you have to go out into these communities to see and learn what’s needed,” Schwartz stated. “That’s the joy of pulling together.”

Schwartz, who lives in Colerain, personally wrote the grant letter to the HRSA last year in an effort to be awarded the funding needed to substantially enhance Colerain Primary Care.

“I wrote it because I know the story here; I’ve lived the story here,” she said. “This story is what community health centers are all about.”

Of over 300 grant applications nationally, the Colerain project earned $1 million from HRSA.

“All that work to get the grant was well worth those long days and nights,” Schwartz exclaimed. “RCCHC has meaning in my life and in the lives of those in the communities we serve. It keeps me moving; it keeps community health centers like ours moving forward.”

Rev. Cheryl Bowen, the new pastor of Colerain United Methodist Church, offered a prayer in celebration of the ground breaking, saying, “We are working together to make this an amazing place of health, healing and wholeness for this community and the surrounding communities.”

Guy Simmons, RCCHC Board Chairman, praised the entire team at all locations of this local community health center organization for their work to expand the Colerain location.

“The employees here at Colerain have the support of the board and the staff at our other locations,” he said. “We believe solidly in and stay focused on our mission as a community health center.

“There are a lot of wonderful things happening at all of our locations, to include the expansion here in Colerain,” Simmons continued. “We encourage everyone here to take advantage of our outstanding primary care by sending anyone who needs medical, dental, behavioral and pediatric care or needs prescription assistance at a pharmacy to visit us. Walk-ins are welcomed every day.”

Pat Curl of the American Cancer Society also took part in the groundbreaking ceremony. She presented Simmons with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of RCCHC’s effort to battle cancer.

Also on hand was Tammy Lee, Vice Chair of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners.

“I’m a patient of Colerain Primary Care; I can remember the days back when all that was here was a trailer,” Lee said. “This facility, and with this new expansion, has served as a medical beacon to the Colerain community. We have residents here with transportation issues, so having a local medical facility in this part of Bertie County is a blessing.

“This expansion, especially the addition of a pharmacy here in Colerain, is going to be huge for this community,” Lee added. “They can get their prescriptions filled here instead of having to drive or find transportation elsewhere.”

Colerain Town Councilman Burney Baker said his hometown was blessed to have Colerain Primary Care.

“There are dedicated medical professionals here that serve our community,” Baker noted. “I know a lot of small towns are jealous of what we have here. I’m glad we have something here to be proud of because there are a lot of small towns that are going backwards. Colerain is advancing forward; we are a shining star, and we’re so happy to have a relationship with Roanoke-Chowan Community Health.”

As mentioned earlier, Colerain Primary Care doubles as the home of one of Bertie County’s Senior Nutrition sites. Venita Thompson, Director of the county’s Council on Aging, sang the praises of that partnership.

“Thank you to RCCHC for sharing this space with us to help our senior citizens,” Thompson remarked. “Our numbers have increased in Colerain. Our seniors are getting out and enjoying themselves. This expansion will help us as well as we will have a dedicated space where we will no longer have to remove tables and chairs and then place them back when we’re finished.”

Thompson added that by encouraging the seniors to come to the Colerain site, it keeps them active and healthy.

“When they sit at home, their health goes down,” she said. “This place has been a blessing to them; it keeps them going. Thank you for this partnership in sharing your space.”

Colerain Primary Care will remain open during the expansion project. The clinic is currently open Monday-Friday (Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 am – 7 pm; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 am – 5 pm; and Fridays from 8 am – 4 pm). Colerain Primary Care is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, but RCCHC operates on Saturday at Ahoskie Comprehensive Care from 8 am until 12 noon for all patients.

RCCHC has two other primary care locations: Murfreesboro Primary Care, and the newly opened Creswell Primary Care.

RCCHC is a not-for-profit organization, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, committed to providing quality service and comprehensive healthcare, regardless of the ability to pay, to meet the needs of the rural community, including the uninsured. RCCHC offers a sliding fee scale for their patients, as well as medication assistance programs. Evening clinics are available at all locations.

For more information about Colerain Primary Care and RCCHC, visit

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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