With 30 years of history in the Tampa Bay area, Metro Inclusive Health is certainly no stranger to the challenges of addressing healthcare equity in the midst of regional growth. Today the St. Petersburg based not-for-profit healthcare organization announced an ambitious plan to increase healthcare equity by re-distributing operations located at St. Petersburg and Tampa centers over six full-service satellite locations offering over 100 health and social services identified as high demand and high need.
The move will expand the organization’s reach from four locations to eight, including two existing satellite health centers in Clearwater and New Port Richey.
According to the most recent Census data, nearly 13% of Hillsborough residents and 14% of Pinellas residents had no form of health insurance– A number that’s expected to grow as population increases and particularly if the economy heads into recession. With industry trends and big box brands expanding into community healthcare, METRO understands that destination community health centers are no longer the most effective way to reach patients in a modern-day Tampa Bay.
Four new locations have been identified thus far in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Brandon, with construction underway on the first. The moves are expected to create significant annual cost savings that can then be redirected towards providing services to the community. Additional locations are also in development. No reduction in staff is expected as the organization continues to hire for a number of positions.
Metro Inclusive Health is a not-for-profit Federally Qualified Health Center lookalike founded in 1992 with one service, HIV Case Management. Today the organization offers over 100 combined services and touches nearly 30,000 annually. With a focus on LGBTQ+ health and wellness, along with onsite labs and pharmacies, 90% of patients receive more than one service at METRO.
In addition to accepting most insurances including Medicare and Medicaid, the organization offers a sliding scale fee to uninsured patients based on proof of income. Supported by the Copay it Forward program, insured patients subsidized $660,450 in free healthcare to uninsured members of the community in 2022.
Founded in 1992, Metro Inclusive Health continues to lead the market as a one-stop primary care, behavioral health, pediatric and HIV services provider at the forefront of LGBTQ+ health. Innovations include access to PrEP in 30 minutes, same day STI testing, rapid fourth generation HIV testing and uniquely providing both primary care and HIV care together for the most advanced and holistic approach for those living with HIV.
Citing population growth, hybrid work schedules and commuter times, the 501(c)3 non-profit healthcare organization has been studying patient demographic patterns from as far back as 2019. In 2021 and 2022, the organization experienced explosive growth with patients traveling from all corners of the region including as far as Lakeland and south of the Skyway. In 2022, it touched 30,711 lives in the Tampa Bay area, up from 26,997 in 2021 and subsidized nearly $60,000 in transportation for medical appointments in 2022.
Through its Copay it Forward program, insured patients provide free access to care to those without insurance just by getting their prescriptions filled by a METRO partner pharmacy. In 2022, that program accounted for $660,450 in free healthcare to individuals without insurance.
“This gives us the huge opportunity to bring what has made Metro Inclusive Health so special for so many years to more of Tampa Bay,” said Lorraine Langlois, Co-CEO who is retiring at the end of the year after 30 years of service to METRO. “I’m delighted to see this organization once again innovating to meet the health equity needs of our community. Our team is the best and brightest of the industry.”
Metro Inclusive Health, a Tampa Bay area LGBTQ+ health care provider, plans to open six new clinics across the Tampa Bay region this year. One opens Thursday in St. Pete. The nonprofit, founded 30 years ago, will close its existing health centers in St. Petersburg and Ybor City and move employees to new, smaller locations.
Metro Inclusive Health is planning a major expansion throughout Tampa Bay. The nonprofit health care organization currently has four centers and intends to operate in eight locations by the end of the year. METRO has been active in Tampa Bay for 30 years and has health centers in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and New Port Richey.
METRO plans to “redistribute operations” that are currently located in St. Pete and Tampa to all the current and upcoming centers. The areas were all identified as “high demand and high need,” according to Brian Bailey, chief marketing and business development officer for METRO. Each location will provide more than 100 health, wellness and social services with labs and pharmacy.
The nonprofit began studying its patient demographic patterns in 2019. When the pandemic hit, it saw “explosive growth,” and Bailey said it realized it had patients traveling f rom all corners of the region. More than 30,700 patients used Metro in 2022, up nearly 27,000 from 2021. Bailey said it adds approximately 30 patients a month in the Clearwater center alone. The group also subsidized nearly $60,000 in transportation for medical appointments in 2022.
METRO accepts most insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid and offers sliding-scale fee programs for uninsured patients. Metro will hold the soft opening for a new St. Pete center, 2235 Central Ave., next week. It is currently in the process of finalizing plans for the other locations. The organization targets Brandon, the Gandy area in St. Pete and the University area in North Tampa. According to Bailey, Metro will be looking to lease spaces that range from 3,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet.
METRO expects every location to be full-service, meaning the locations will have space for everything f rom large gathering spaces for groups to areas for specific services “This is our opportunity to invest in local health care equity,” Lorraine Langlois, co-CEO, who is retiring at the end of 2023 after 30 years of service to Metro, said in a release. Bailey said METRO realized it needed to “get back to its roots” to prioritize putting community health care back into local neighborhoods. METRO’s roots are in HIV case management, and Bailey said the organization has always had a “very strong connection to the LGBTQ+ community.