06/22/11 — Health Department primary care clinic now open

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Health Department primary care clinic now open

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 22, 2011 1:46 PM

Three years after Dr. Ashton Griffin signed on as medical director at the Health Department, one of his target goals is being realized -- establishing a primary care clinic.

Although still in the early growth stage and he hopes to eventually add staff, including a physician's assistant, Griffin said it gives the Health Department the opportunity to provide more services for men in Wayne County.

"We don't have anything for males except the sexually transmitted disease (clinic)," he said. "The only guys that come here (to the Health Dept.) are with their wife or partner. This will be a focus to help serve the underserved minority population."

The clinic has actually been operating for a few weeks now, the family physician said.

"We have made some real progress, and we're open for business," he said. "We have been seeing a few patients every now and then just so they could get care. ... Mainly, I have been seeing minor illnesses, sore throats and cuts and bruises."

Already approved as a Blue Cross provider, Griffin said the next step is to become a Medicare provider.

"This will allow the clinic to generate a good portion of its cost of operation from other than county tax funds," he explained.

While the primary care clinic will cater to the community at large, Griffin said he is hopeful that county employees will also take advantage of the service, likening the approach to the "military sick call." Hours for appointment for county workers have been set up from 7-9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, by calling 731-1005.

In addition to the typical services offered through primary care, the medical director said it also affords him the chance to encompass his other goals -- prevention of lung cancer and heart attacks, the latter by efforts to lower cholesterol among patients.

When Griffin closed his local family practice to take on the role of medical director, he gave himself another title -- attorney general of Wayne County -- and appealed to the public to enlist in "Ashton's Army" to eradicate some of the county's largest health concerns.

In some respects, it has been slow going.

Statistics for lung cancer are virtually unchanged, Griffin admits, remaining at 10 percent of all deaths in Wayne County.

"This isn't as bad as it sounds," the doctor said. "It will take several years for the decrease in smoking to show up in decreased case numbers."

Other efforts have been made toward that, he said, creating leaps forward in cutting the number of smokers in Wayne County.

"The big inroads have come from the state legislature, passing no smoking in restaurants and bars has been huge, and it's been accepted graciously," he said. "Another initiative that's making a difference is county employees are going to be charged more for their health insurance if they smoke. That has prompted a number of people that I'm working with here to stop smoking."

Cholesterol concerns still remain, Griffin said, since funding ran out for a program that routinely did cholesterol tests. His office has, however, applied for grant money for several other initiatives.

As for Ashton's Army, Griffin said it remains "alive and well and it consists mostly of people that I'm talking to about smoking."

In some respects, it has operated mainly as a one-on-one process, talking with people about the importance of not smoking as a preventive measure of cancer and the risk of heart attack and stroke. He also encourages and reassures those whose partners or family member that still smoke that they can have an effective impact.

"As a member of Ashton's Army, tell your significant other to stop smoking ... don't underestimate the influence you can have," he advised.