Agape announces plan for Aurora health clinic, Commissioners vote unanimously to move forward with plan

Published 2:18 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

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This time last year, Aurora residents received news that the sole healthcare facility in town closed. One year later, they can take comfort and find hope in that healthcare could return thanks to a plan developed by Agape Health Services. 

On Monday evening (Jan. 8), Chief Executive Officer of Agape Health Services, Dr. Michael McDuffie and Director of Operations and Special Projects Mariana Rolinsky, MPH, MPA presented a plan before the Board of Beaufort County commissioners on how to bring healthcare to Aurora. 

Agape Health Services is a nonprofit and Federally Qualified Health Center that offers direct primary and preventative medical, dental, pharmacy, radiology and behavioral health services to people with or without insurance in rural counties across Eastern North Carolina using a sliding scale fee. It was first established in 1998 in Washington under Metropolitan Housing, Inc. and has grown to offer services in five counties – Beaufort, Martin, Washington, Hyde and Tyrrell. 

Agape’s plan is to take an existing facility at 151 Third Street that is owned by Beaufort County Government and convert it into a medical facility that provides primary medical care, onsite x-ray, mental health and substance use services, an onsite pharmacy and case management. There are plans to add dental services in the future. 

McDuffie said the “outdated” building requires “a lot of work” which includes making the restrooms handicap accessible and expanding the size of the building so there is enough space for general services. Right now, the building has room for an onsite pharmacy which Agape will offer first in its plan to bring healthcare to Aurora.  

“One of the issues that I see with the building is that there is too much glass around the building for a pharmacy,” McDuffie said. Sliding glass doors need to be removed, because the pharmacy will contain the same medications as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart including controlled substances. Replacement of the sliding glass doors will increase protection around the pharmacy. 

At this time, McDuffie does not have an estimated cost for renovations to the building. Agape is requesting funding from the Board of County Commissioners for renovations of the building. Beaufort County can use American Rescue Plan Act designated funding and/or apply for a healthcare facility reuse and renovation grant from the state of North Carolina, County Manager Brian Alligood shared with commissioners. County commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with the project. The next step is to determine how much it will cost to renovate the building and where funding will come from. 

While the building is renovated, Agape can offer limited medical services in their unit. The unit has two exam rooms, an area for counseling, case management or behavioral health services, McDuffie said. “We can actually deploy that unit down there to start establishing services while the building is being renovated.”    

He continued to explain that it could take between 45 and 60 days before the mobile unit would be in Aurora and it could be there twice a week.