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Money earmarked for Midtown health center

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 28, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young will announce today that Congress has appropriated $3.75-million for a new 15,000-square-foot health center that could be built at the former Mercy Hospital site in Midtown.

The center is to be run by a partnership of the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center and Bayfront Health System.

The group hopes to build the health center on city-owned land at 1344 22nd St. S, where Mercy Hospital used to be, but the city has not yet decided what to do with that land.

However, the $3.75-million will be available to build the center, whether or not it ends up at the Mercy Hospital location, according to Young, R-Largo.

"The money is not dependent on the site," said Harry Glenn, Young's chief of staff.

Johnnie Ruth Clarke, which is a medical care center for poor people, wants to move some health services out of its cramped building at 1310 22nd Ave. S near the Mercy Hospital site. It provides general family, obstetrics and pediatric care to patients who pay on a sliding scale based on their incomes. The health center is operated by a nonprofit organization.

The old Mercy Hospital served the black community from the 1920s to the 1960s. The city tore down most of the hospital several years ago.

Mayor Rick Baker and the City Council are considering various options for the land.

"There has not been any approval for a plan for the Mercy Hospital site," Baker said Thursday.

Two groups want to put health care centers there and have offered two completely different plans.

One group, the partnership of Johnnie Ruth Clarke and Bayfront, says its health center could be up and running by 2003. The group had a commitment from Young, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, for $3.75-million in federal funds, and that money has come through.

"One of his top priorities for this year was to make good on that commitment," said Glenn.

Another group, a grass-roots organization known as Sources of Health Inc., has an $11-million plan to build a holistic medical center, an education and lifestyle center and a research and advocacy center. But it does not have firm financial commitments.

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