WILMINGTON — After a year of deciding a second location for one of two Michael Jordan clinics coming to the area, Novant Health-New Hanover Regional Medical Center announced Wednesday it purchased a corner lot at Princess Place Drive and 30th Street. It will be working with architectural firm Neighboring Concepts out of Charlotte to design the facility, slated to be operational by 2024.
During winter 2021, NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan — who graduated from Laney High School in Wilmington — announced he was donating $10 million to build two clinics in his former hometown. He donated $7 million to launch facilities in Charlotte a year prior.
CATCH UP: Previous coverage on the clinic
Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinics offer comprehensive primary care and mental health services. When Novant began assessing where to put the clinics, it scaled its interest to two of four areas in town where high populations of under- and uninsured patients live: the Southside, the Northside, east Wilmington and Shipyard Boulevard.
Novant accepted a land donation from the county last summer to build a clinic on the Southside at 1410 S. 15th St. It will be located within a stone’s throw from the New Hanover County Health and Human Services headquarters at 16th and Greenfield streets.
The private health company was poised to accept a Northside land donation from the city as well — 2 acres located beside the nonprofit DREAMS at 906 Fanning St. In April, Port City Daily reported Novant turned down the gift.
Dr. Philip Brown, Novant Health’s chief community impact officer, said Wednesday morning during a press conference Novant had discussions with community partners from MedNorth, which also services the under- and uninsured on Fourth Street. The second proposed Michael Jordan Clinic would be located only six blocks away if erected on Fanning.
“We really started looking at the map,” Brown said. “We asked: How do we spread that out?”
He said a Shipyard location was the last choice. Rather, the eastside of Wilmington, almost 4 miles away, seemed to make more sense.
“It’s nice for transportation access,” Brown pinpointed, for one.
Wave Transit runs bus route 101 every 30 minutes at the corner weekdays during prime hours.
Novant purchased the 3.4-acre lot for $247,000 from the Wilmington Housing Authority, located beside Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church and across from the Prince Mini Mart. It’s surrounded by predominantly Black neighborhoods like Creekwood and Turnkey. New Hanover County NAACP President Deborah Dicks Maxwell, present at the announcement, said it is close enough to serve Kerr Avenue areas, where multiple residents live in mobile home parks.
According to the U.S. Census, 30% of Black people in the Cape Fear region live below the federal poverty line, with Hispanics and LatinX populations consisting of 28.4%.
The Michael Jordan clinics intend to help historically marginalized populations. The goal, Brown said, is to staff the clinics with as much diversity as the patients they serve. He said he has been assessing physician and provider demographics across the entire system to help recruit and bridge the divide.
“We know for sure that when the provider and the patient are of the same race, particularly for Black and Hispanic patients, the clinical outcomes are better,” Brown said. “Filling that gap is critical if we’re going to deliver equitable health.”
Maxwell, a retired public health social worker, said it builds stronger trust and communication for Novant to do outreach to the community it serves. She and others, including Althea Johnson and Cedric Dickerson, will help spread the word about the clinic coming to the neighborhood’s doorstep.
“Sometimes people don’t seek service because of lack of knowledge,” Maxwell said. “There has been reluctance and fear, and sometimes that’s why you need the diversity of staff.”
The goal is to remove all barriers, she added. First and foremost, it includes financial access. Maxwell pointed to the need for strengthening and expanding legislation on Medicaid to “exponentially increase the number of people who will be able to receive services without a fee.” (The state Senate introduced a bill, “Expanding Access to Health Care in North Carolina,” a few weeks ago during the general assembly’s short session that could insure a half million-plus low-income individuals.)
Novant accepts Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and self-pay. It also has a financial assistance policy to cover expenses for individuals earning less than 300% of federal poverty level.
“So for a family of four, if the income is less than $80,000, the care is free,” Brown said.
Johnson detailed around 24,000 people in New Hanover County are under- or uninsured currently. The MedNorth CEO said its facility currently serves around 8,000 patients annually. Partnering with the upcoming Michael Jordan clinics will help alleviate the overburdened workload.
“We are already pretty much at capacity,” Johnson said. “We need all hands on deck and some additional health care providers that accept Medicaid and Medicare and offer services on a sliding scale for the uninsured.”
Johnson said it doesn’t only include people below the poverty line. It envelops essential workers who hold jobs to boost the tourism industry New Hanover County thrives on — servers, bartenders, room attendants, people in guest services.
“And part-time workers,” she added. “Primary care is the entry point into health care. If you take care of a problem before it gets too big, you won’t end up in the emergency room or the hospital.”
Michael Jordan clinics will be a community partner, Brown assured. Area community member Dickerson said he remembers years ago when the vision was to turn the empty lot into a field or playground — a place to bring together people.
Brown said plans were already in motion to collaborate with area churches and community centers to help embed the clinic into the culture of its neighbors and work toward bridging faith between the corporate entity and people it serves. Brown pointed to the church across the way.
“We are in a food-insecure population and Ebenezer has a commercial kitchen,” he said. “One of the things we’re contemplating for the site is potentially another community garden.”
One exists already a few blocks away.
“The real transformative power of the Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinics in communities that have been historically underserved, is not that people can see a primary care physician — it’s that people from these communities have a vision of what it is to be a primary care physician or some other role within the clinic,” Brown said. “It really helps people see what’s possible, gives kids a chance to have a dream of doing something that makes a difference in their communities, and grow into that.”
Novant likely will break ground on the Michael Jordan clinic at Princess Place Drive and 30th Street in six months. The first location at 15th and Greenfield is moving forward in its planning phase, with a community committee convening soon to refine next steps. It will open by 2023.
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