Great Lakes Bay Health Centers has its roots in Saginaw County, but is blossoming in Bay County.
Late in 2019, Great Lakes Bay Health Centers acquired the McLaren Bay Psychiatric Associates practice and building at 690 S. Trumbull St. Many McLaren employees continue to work at the site, which welcomes current and new patients.
The Trumbull Street facility brings Great Lakes Bay Health Centers, based in Saginaw County, to 32 sites in 8 counties. Those sites serve about 54,000 patients, providing primary medical care, dental services, integrated behavioral health, substance use disorder treatment, obstetrics, eye care, pharmacy, lab services, and transportation.
Services available at the 3175 W. Professional Drive center include obstetrics and gynecology; nurse midwifery; infertility; major and minor surgeries; robotic surgery; incontinence; pelvic organ prolapse; and more.Three locations exist in Bay City:
In addition, the center offers counseling services for students at Washington Elementary School, 1821 McKinley St
Before acquiring the Trumbull Street location, Bay City patients had to travel to Saginaw or go outside the Great Lakes Bay Health Centers system to see psychiatric providers or for substance abuse disorder treatment. Prior this expansion, only behavioral health counseling services were available at the Bayside Center.
“Every one of our sites has integrated behavioral health,” said Julie Hobgood, RN and nurse manager for Bayside.
Services available at the 3884 Monitor Road center include family medicine; dental; immunizations; family planning; acute care; lab; pharmacy assistance; and behavioral health.Integrating behavioral health with physical health isn’t complicated. For example, a patient who comes in with a sore throat may mention to the nurse or doctor that he’s having a hard time sleeping. After the primary appointment, a counselor steps in and helps the patient figure out why he can’t sleep.
“A counselor sits at the desk and is available for any kind of short-term intervention,” Hobgood said. “If a patient has experienced a death in the family or wants to quit smoking, they can go in right after the provider does and work with the patient for 15 or 20 minutes. If the patient needs more, we can set up more.”
Combining behavioral and physical health makes a tremendous difference. Hobgood said studies show patients with severe behavioral health issues die 30 years earlier than those without mental health issues.
It’s not hard to imagine how this happens. A patient who is depressed will have trouble managing high blood pressure or diabetes. An injury makes leaving home impossible, isolating the individual from friends and family. Depression sets in. Pain medication helps while the injury heals, but many become addicted.
A mobile dental health program brings dental services to school-aged children in the Great Lakes Bay Region. In the summer, the buses travel throughout lower Michigan providing dental services to migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.“A big movement in medicine is to incorporate physical health and mental health together,” Hobgood said. “For a long time, medical professionals were focused on the physical aspect of health. They weren’t trained in behavioral health. It’s all coming back together as we acknowledge that everything is integrated.”
Offering behavioral and physical health services in one location is particularly crucial for patients using Great Lakes Bay Health Centers. Of the patients using the centers, 25% do not have health insurance. They don’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford to pay health insurance premiums. Many ride the bus to get to the center, so a trip to a second location is costly and time consuming.
“The big thing is services are integrated and they don’t have to go somewhere else. They can get all these services in one place,” Hobgood said. “When we’re all in one building, it’s easier to coordinate and work together.”
As the need increases, Great Lakes Bay Health Centers is trying to recruit more staff. One goal of purchasing the McLaren building was to keep services here.
To recruit, Fund Development Coordinator Jill Armentrout said the program works with the Central Michigan University Medical School students, forms partnerships, and reaches out to students to ask them to consider a career here. Since this is an under-served area, licensed professionals can get federal help repaying student loans. Armentrout also hopes the recruits come to understand the mission and want to stay here to help the community.
"We don’t have the facilities and we don’t have the providers to help as many people as need it,” Armentrout said.
In Bay County, Hobgood sees a strong need for behavioral health, substance abuse disorder treatment, and dental services. Right now, patients who want to see family practice physicians wait about 6 weeks. The Great Lakes Bay Health Center is one of the few dental programs in the area accepting Medicaid.
Armentrout expects to hold an open house at the Trumbull Street location in March. In the meantime, you can get a glimpse of what’s available through Great Lakes Bay Health Centers by signing up for a tour of Bayside at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12. The tours take about an hour. To sign up, contact Armentrout at (989) 751-8866 or firstname.lastname@example.org