First Baptist plans to open medical clinic, counseling center

CONYERS - First Baptist Church of Conyers has applied for a special-use permit to open a medical clinic for underinsured and uninsured residents, along with a Christian counseling center, for property at Ga. Highway 20 South and Kay Terrace.

The special-use permit application was submitted earlier this month to the planning and zoning office of the Rockdale County Department of Public Services and Engineering and will have its first public hearing on Nov. 13.

The proposed clinic and counseling center would operate from a house at 2796 Ga. 20 located on property of the former Hope Baptist Church. The clinic would provide free medical service to individuals and families who do not have the financial resources to get health care coverage, according Howard Greer, associate pastor at FBC Conyers who filed the application on behalf of the church.

Hope Baptist merged with First Baptist Church in May and is now known as Mercy Heart Community Outreach.

"We have many individuals and families who live in Rockdale County that do not have medical insurance," Greer wrote in the application. "The reasons may be due to a lack of finances or due to ill health issues that are uninsurable. As a result, many do not receive the medical care they need."

Greer added that the church would staff the medical clinic with volunteer physicians and nurses and work with the Georgia Department of Community Health to follow state health guidelines.

The counseling center would provide help for those dealing with mental health issues and is not being proposed as a free clinic. Greer said in the filing that charges for services may be put on a sliding scale based upon the person's income.

"We have men and women who are returning from serving their country in a foreign country that need counseling to deal with past issues that they bring home," Greer said in the application letter. "First Baptist Church would like to provide the residents of Rockdale County counselors that will help them work through the difficulties they may be facing."

Many health care providers have said a health clinic for underinsured and uninsured residents would help ease the burden on private providers who offer the services voluntarily.

The Healing Hands clinic at Lakeview Estates sought to fulfill that need for 10 years before it closed in 2004 due to rising liability insurance premiums and an increase in patient volume.

Oakhurst Medical Center of Stone Mountain succeeded Healing Hands. However, the Oakhurst clinic on Wall Street closed within months of its opening in 2005.

Since then, county officials had contemplated including a health clinic in the new J.P. Carr county administration building using funding from local sales taxes and a federal grant. However, budget cuts to the project forced county officials to drop the clinic from the final plans for the building.

The church's application will be heard first by the Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission at the first public hearing at 7 p.m. Nov. 13. The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will hold a second public hearing at

4 p.m. Nov. 24 before it will take action on the application.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.