By Ron Chew
Northwest Asian Weekly
International Community Health Services (ICHS) officially opened the doors of its new medical-dental clinic in Shoreline on Monday, Sept. 15, marking the long-awaited arrival of the first nonprofit community health center in the city’s history.
“The first day went really well and everything went as planned,” said Sherman Lohn, ICHS director of operations. “Quiet and smooth. Quiet and steady. Everyone pitched in to help get things ready for the opening – and many of them did this beyond the scope of their normal responsibilities. We’re very pleased.”
The new clinic is located just north of 165th Street on the busy Aurora Avenue traffic corridor. The three-story brick-clad building is ICHS’s fourth full-service clinic and the agency’s seventh service site.
The expansion of ICHS – which includes the opening of a smaller clinic in the Crossroads neighborhood of Bellevue on May 1 – reflects the emergence of ICHS as a regional health care provider with a physical presence in neighborhoods outside Seattle, with large immigrant and low-income populations underserved by the health care system.
Established in Seattle in 1973, ICHS is the largest Asian Pacific Islander health care provider in the state, last year serving over 19,000 unduplicated patients from King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. Care is provided in over 50 different languages, making the agency one of the most diverse community clinics in the nation.
The 40,000 sq. ft. Shoreline clinic, designed by Miller Hayashi Architects, includes 20 medical exam rooms, 10 dental operatories, a medical laboratory, three community meeting rooms, an outdoor reflection garden, and 71 parking spaces. Dr. Kimo Hirayama, long-time physician at the ID clinic, and Dr. Ji Choi, ICHS dental director, have both relocated to the Shoreline clinic as part of the ICHS expansion, providing depth of experience to help the new clinic get up and running immediately.
Joe Sperry, the newly hired ICHS Shoreline health center manager, remarked, “The biggest challenge has been making sure we’ve got all the supplies in place as we begin to ramp up the number of appointments for patients. Dr. Hirayama was seeing one patient an hour during the first week, and he’s already added extra slots. Next week, he’s aiming for two an hour until he’s ramped up to a regular schedule in the next month.”
ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola noted that there were a number of walk-in patients during the first week. “That means there are people who have been watching and waiting for us to open,” she said.
“Both the City of Shoreline and the nonprofits in the area have been fully welcoming. We expect those community partnerships will yield patients who will be referred to ICHS for assistance.”
ICHS had conducted a 2007 feasibility study, updated in 2010, which had pinpointed the urgent need for a clinic in Shoreline. The recent expansion in Medicaid and establishment of the Health Benefits Exchange strengthened the impetus to move forward.
“I don’t think any of us back in 2007 knew how important this building could be for Shoreline and for ICHS,” Batayola remarked. “It’s turned out to be a beautiful building that provides an economic and physical lift to Aurora Avenue.” (end)
The ICHS Shoreline Medical & Dental Clinic is located at 16549 Aurora Avenue North. Medical services are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dental hours are Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Medical hours will expand by the end of fall. For questions, call 206-533-2600.