A bird's eye view of the old USU campus. There are three one-story buildings scattered around a parking lot, with the red rocks of the valley wall in the background.
The Moab Free Health Clinic moved into the old Utah State University Moab Extension campus as the school moves to its new campus south of town. Credit: Courtesy of the Moab Free Health Clinic

The Moab Free Health Clinic will soon be moving to a new location. After Utah State University Moab Extension moves to its new campus south of town, the clinic will begin remodeling and moving into the old USU campus on 200 South.

“We’ve been bursting at the seams here,” said Doug Caylor, executive director of the Free Health Clinic. “Ever since I got here about three years ago we’ve been adding programs and really increasing our footprint in the community.”

The clinic was established in 2008 to serve the health and medical needs of uninsured and underinsured Grand County residents. It currently serves about a tenth of Grand County’s population—over 1,000 individuals—and offers an array of services including primary care, mental health care and counseling, women’s health care, dermatology, dental care and vision clinics.

This will be the third major move for the clinic since it started operating out of a building on 400 East, now the East Ivy clothing boutique. From there the clinic moved to its current location on 500 West. The old USU campus, at about 20,000 square feet, will give the clinic significantly more floor space than the current 2,500 square feet or so of the current building.

“That’s going to be really awesome,” Caylor said. The current clinic is so tight on space that Caylor gave up his office. His desk is on wheels and he moves it from place to place depending on what area isn’t in current use. “Sometimes that means I buddy up with someone else,” he said.

Caylor said staff considered remodeling and expanding the current building, but construction costs are high right now, and a larger building would have also prompted a need for more parking, creating another hard-to-solve problem. When USU announced it would be selling the old campus, Caylor said it made sense for the Free Health Clinic to buy it.

“It’s kind of amazing to me how sometimes the stars line up—and when they do, you can’t say, ‘Should I?’ You can’t say, ‘Why?’ You have to say, ‘Well, it’s right there, we’ve got to move forward,’” Caylor said. “Everything just went, ‘Click, click, click, click!’”

They secured a short-term, low-interest loan from a donor and paid off the building on March 31. The clinic is leasing it back to the university until that entity moves on May 15. Caylor said the clinic will sells its current building, which will go a long way toward repaying the loan, and it’s arranging grants and donations to cover the rest of the loan as well as the costs of remodeling the USU buildings to suit its needs.

The clinic plans to operate out of the old USU campus’s east building, which will be outfitted to meet patient-care needs. It will likely be 2023 before all the remodeling is complete and the clinic is ready to move patient care into that facility. With the extra space, they’ll be able to expand services in areas including dental, women’s health, counseling, ophthalmology and diabetes care.

The west building will house services related to “social determinants of health”: things like safe, stable housing, steady employment, education and access to good nutrition. The clinic will partner with participants in its referral program, a relatively new initiative facilitated by a software called Unite Us. The program helps patients connect quickly to other local resources they may need, such as housing assistance or child care options. [See “Free Health Clinic expands offerings,” Dec. 9, 2021 edition. -ed.] Partners include the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, Moab Solutions, Grand Area Mentoring, and Grand County Emergency Medical Services. Caylor hopes to work out a cost-sharing arrangement with some of the partnering organizations that might find the extra space useful.

“We realized this is the perfect situation where we can take that whole thought process and boost the social determinants of health in one place,” Caylor said.

The west building will also need some remodeling and maintenance, but Caylor hopes it will be ready sooner than the patient-care building—maybe as soon as early this summer. There will also be space for meetings, presentations and classes. Caylor envisions dieticians and diabetes educators coming to give informational sessions, or offering professional training for health care workers, such as sexual assault nurse training.

Part of the old USU campus houses the local USGS offices; Caylor said the clinic will continue to rent that space for that purpose.

Caylor said all the factors needed to make the move possible came together at just the right time.

“When you see those stars aligning, you almost feel like you have an obligation to follow through and make the most of the situation for the community,” he said.