After years of community meetings, zoning battles and site planning, Parkland Health is set to open a new clinic next year on the Richland College campus, a step toward reducing strain on the Vickery Meadow location and providing low-cost health care to the North Lake Highlands area. 

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According to a representative from Parkland Health, Vickery Health Center is oversubscribed, with over 18,000 visits per year. With the population growing and outpacing the size of the current clinic, many patients are seeking primary care in Parkland’s emergency department, a costlier visit for all involved. To mitigate this issue, Parkland Health has allocated part of the 2024 budget to expanding Vickery Health’s clinic and creating additional clinics. 

“Many of our patients have to carefully decide between going into work to support their families or missing pay to attend their medical appointments,” James Perez, community-oriented primary care operations administrator at Parkland, said in a news release in 2020. “It’s the cost of time. We help combat those barriers to care by ensuring the health center remains within walking distance of public transit and providing telehealth options for our patients.”

Some of the biggest barriers going to regular medical appointments are access to health insurance, long wait times for appointments and conflicts with work schedules, according to Parkland’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment. With 21% of Dallasites uninsured, access to Parkland Health services is often the only option when seeking health care.

To increase availability of services and ease transportation concerns, Parkland aimed to open a clinic in the northeast region of Dallas that was within walking distance of public transportation and could serve the preventive health care needs of the community. 

The health network first aimed its sights on a new Community Oriented Primary Care clinic (COPC) in the Forest Lane and Stults Road area on the location of the Greater Cornerstone Baptist Church property. 

When the hospital group applied to rezone the property, many Lake Highlands neighbors and Hamilton Park-area residents opposed the development, saying that they “would like a development that better fits into the neighborhood” and that “there is no room for more traffic,” the Advocate reported in 2021.

Without community support and due to the area’s highly residential nature, the zoning case was denied. 

Going back to the drawing board, the Parkland development team applied for a different rezoning case in February — this time to add a clinic to the Dallas College Richland Campus. 

“[The previous zoning case being denied] turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Beal Carothers, director of real estate development for Parkland Health, says. “I think we have a better site at the Richland College campus.”

The partnership with the college will allow Parkland to utilize the 30,000-square-foot space with a long-term lease and provide Parkland with a clinic within walking distance of nearby DART bus stops on Walnut Street. 

“It’s not just hospitalization, this is a community clinic which will treat chronic conditions … podiatry … diabetic neuropathy … There are a host of things that this is really the only opportunity for a population that really needs this health to get this care,” Jonathan Vincent, a representative of Parkland Health says. 

Several Dallas County residents came to support the clinic, citing its significance to community health care.

“[Richland College] is a very integral part of [North Lake Highlands] with the beautiful campus and walking trails, and we very much want to maintain the quality and beauty of our neighborhood,” neighborhood resident Bernie Butler says. “The Parkland reps did represent that and engaged with the community on that initial designation as the planned development.”

Parkland Health sought a Planned Development district from the rezoning case, which aimed to limit the site use to a medical and ambulatory clinic — something that public meetings in January made clear to Parkland’s development team that was important to the community. 

The new clinic will be about five miles from the Vickery Health site, and will allow around 15,000 visits per year, Carothers says. Once fully-staffed, the clinic will offer services in adult care, children’s health, infant care, women’s care, optometry, podiatry, pharmacy, lab services, patient financial counseling, radiology and drive-through vaccination. 

City council approved the project in October, allowing Parkland’s development team to begin working on design. According to Carothers, the current projected timeline puts completed design in August 2024, groundbreaking in January 2025 and first patients able to use the clinic in April 2026.