Grace Clinic in Kennewick gets lease extension

Grace Clinic should be able to continue serving low-income Tri-Citians until the nonprofit medical clinic moves to the former Benton Franklin Health District building in Kennewick.

On Tuesday, the clinic was able to get its lease at its current location at 3180 W. Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick extended through September, which officials say should give the nonprofit enough time to finish remodeling its new building.

The remodel was delayed when the nonprofit ran into an issue with permitting because the property wasn't zoned for a medical clinic.

The city of Kennewick has issued the permit for the former health district building, and the zoning change from light industrial to business park is headed to the Kennewick City Council for approval next month.

But Mark Brault, president of the clinic's board, said they needed another month added onto their lease, which would have expired at the end of August.

Grace Clinic negotiated with the health district to lease the Canal Drive building to expand and accommodate more patients and offer more services.

The clinic offers free medical, dental and mental health care to people with incomes below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, or less than $44,700 a year for a family of four.

The lease calls for the clinic to pay market rent of $60,000 a year, but allows the clinic to offset the rental amount with the value of improvements the clinic makes to the building and health care services it provides.

To meet the clinic's needs, remodeling the former health district building at 800 W. Canal Drive was required. Part of the work has included cutting about 200 linear feet of trenches in the concrete to add water lines, said Bob Johnson, vice president of the clinic's board.

The nonprofit needs a sink in the area where its licensed pharmacy will be, Brault said. The plumbing changes also were needed for the clinic's dental area, which will feature four chairs instead of the current two.

That is one area where the nonprofit's capacity will double, he said.

Johnson, who owns The Johnson Group of Kennewick and is the contractor for the remodel, said they demolished about 50 percent of the rooms so they can make smaller rooms that can be used as offices, a nurse's station and a lab.

The exam rooms are being left as is, he said.

Some minor sprucing up and light repair will be done on the exterior of the building, Johnson said.

The remodel is valued at about $300,000, he said. But the actual cost is less because labor and materials are being donated or provided at a discount.

"The community is really stepping forward as usual to assist us," Johnson said.

While Brault said the nonprofit is doing OK with donations, he said always it is in need of more donations and volunteers.

"We need to grow what we do in order to meet the need," he said.

Even with increasing the number of patients served by 12 percent from last year to about 550 a month, Brault said the clinic still has to turn people away.

More people are becoming uninsured, either because they lost their job, their employer no longer offers health insurance, or they can't afford their portion of insurance offered by an employer, he said.

And most of the patients Grace Clinic sees either would not seek care elsewhere, or would go to an emergency room, Brault said.