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Walnut Street Community Health Center

Walnut Street Community Health Center
in Hagerstown
by Jennifer LB Leese

Walnut Street Community Health Center provides a variety of medical, dental, and supportive services for infants through seniors. They are committed to ensuring a healthy community by providing affordable, accessible, and compassionate health care to individuals and families of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds.
A Free Health Fair is held every August and offers BP and blood sugar screenings; cholesterol screens and PSA screens for men as well skin and breast exams, vascular disease screenings, and oral cancer exams. As with most free community gatherings, free food and drink, as well as free gift drawings is offered. Community organizations such as the Hagerstown Medical Lab, the Health Department, Hagerstown Police Department and the Hagerstown Fire Department participate in the event. Everyone is welcome to attend this yearly collection of community services.
"The purpose of the health fair is to promote the screenings and to let everybody know what's available in their community. Last year 3 to 400 people came," said Dr. G. Johnson Koilpillai, Medical Director at WSCHC.
Several community agencies gather at the Health Fair with all handing out informational packets, brochures, and pamphlets while others offer freebies. With over 20 vendors, including Head Start, Food Resources, WIC, Alzheimer's Association, Breast Cancer Awareness of Cumberland Valley, Priority Partners, Hospice and much more, you're sure to take home tons of much-needed information and knowledge.
Conveniently placed in downtown Hagerstown, the Health Center is within walking distance of most of their patients and a short driving distance from others. Serving all of Washington County, Maryland, WSCHC's patients may receive health education, as well as assistance with referrals, transportation, food, housing and other non medical needs. A representative from the Department of Social Services is located at the Center to assist with patient financial issues.
A sliding fee scale based on the household income is available to patients for medical and dental services.
"We serve private insurance individuals as well, but the target people is this neighborhood--the downtown setting. But it's actually for anybody," said Dr. Koilpillai. "We don't turn down anybody."
Dr. G. Johnson Koilpillai recently joined the staff of the Walnut Street Family Practice. A graduate of the University of Toronto Medical School, he completed an internship and residency program in Family and Community Medicine from the same university. Dr. Koilpillai has special interests in providing compassion and respect for the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of all individuals regardless of social or economic status. "The Center was built to a) improve health care and b) to reduce the number of ER visits," the doctor said.
Walnut Street Family Practice is accepting new patients to include Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurances, and those without insurance. Services are offered for prevention and sick care to all members of the family. "Our doctors are on call after hours. Hospitalist doctors care for our patients in the Washington County Hospital."
Walnut Street Dental Clinic accepts children and adults from the Walnut Street Family Practice. The Dental Clinic cares for pediatric patients with Medicaid, Medicaid MCO, uninsured, and self-pay. Dental services are made available to adults without dental insurance. The Dental Clinic provides preventive care, restorative care, dentures, and extractions.
It is estimated that nationwide 46 million Americans are uninsured and 16 million adults are underinsured. Community health centers are part of the solution to this ongoing dilemma. During the past year Walnut Street Community Health Center had a 13% increase in the number of patients who received medical and dental care. "As we continue to grow and expand out services we are also aware that people in our community still do not have primary health care and we are openly accepting new patients in our family practice," said Executive Director Kim Murdaugh.
Walnut Street Family Practice was originally part of Washington County Hospital and began on Potomac Street. "As the need of services increased the Hospital purchased and started renovations on this building," said Kim. "In 1999 the family practice moved here."
In 2000 the family practice grew by offering a dental clinic.
"Because we serve a lot of low income patients, we applied for Federal funding and became a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2003," Kim said. "Regulations required that we have own board of directors with 51% made up of patients. It was at that point that we separated from the Hospital."
The Health Center is accepting applications for volunteers for their Family Practice, Dental Clinic, and Administration Office. If you would like to offer your services as a volunteer, please stop by Suite 200 for an application.
No experience is required, just the desire to help, and a few hours a week of your time.
Walnut Street Community Health Center is located at 24 North Walnut Street, Hagerstown, Maryland. Call 301-745-3777 for the Walnut Street Family Practice and 301-393-3450 for Walnut Street Dental Clinic. Center's Parking is available in front and to the right of the building. Additional parking is permitted across the street in the yellow lined spaces only.

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