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The East Side Health Center will close its doors next month after six years in York City.

Donna Torrisi, executive director of the Family Practice and Counseling Network, confirmed the closure of its East Princess Street behavioral health facility in a phone interview early Thursday evening.

'Painstaking decision': She said the organization made the decision in the past two months and did not come to it lightly.

“It was a painstaking decision,” Torrisi said, “but we found it challenging to operate it from a distance.”

She said the network struggled to send employees from its Philadelphia headquarters to York regularly, and the transfer of personnel and resources was “incredibly difficult and draining” for all six years the facility has been open.

The East Side Health Center opened in March 2012 by the Family Practice and Counseling Network, a program of the national human services nonprofit Resources for Human Development. The organization aims to help people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, addictions and homelessness, among many other issues.

The East Side Health Center is the only facility run by the network that is not located in Philadelphia.

The York facility, located at 850 E. Princess St., provides primary care and behavioral health services such as psychotherapy for conditions such as depression, anxiety and behavior problems, issues Torrisi said the organization strongly wanted to address.

“We cared about the patients, wanted to provide services, including behavioral health,” she said, but the facility has been a “problem” logistically for the network.

Torrisi said the organization has had a nurse practitioner on staff and had collaborating physicians from the area to assist in the facility.

She said she met with representatives of local health providers Family First Health and WellSpan to possibly take over the center, but both declined.

“They have their hands full with their own expansions,” Torrisi said, adding that both institutions instead were willing to receive East Side’s patients.

“They were very, very gracious about that,” she said of the patient referrals.

With the closure of the East Side Health Center, the Family Practice and Counseling Network will no longer operate any health facilities in York County and does not plan to open any local facilities in the future, according to Torrisi.

The East Side Health Center may re-open under the leadership of a local doctor, Torrisi said, but nothing has been set as of yet.

Family First Health CEO Jenny Englerth confirmed that the local health provider was approached by the network to continue operating the center or to receive patients.

While she said running a new location was “not in our business plan,” Englerth said Family First was open to receiving new patients.

​She added that the organizations have developed a “streamlined” way to schedule and transfer patient records for those who choose to receive services from Family First Health. About 200 patients have already transferred their care, according to Englerth.

Family First Health has also retained a psychiatrist from the East Side Health Center who came regularly from Philadelphia at the referral of the network, Englerth said.

She said both Family First locations are relatively close to East Side Side Health Center. The Hannah Penn location is about five blocks from East Side, while its George Street location is about a mile away, according to Englerth.

Spokesman Dan Carrigan said WellSpan has provided a list of facilities to Family Practice and Counseling Network to potentially refer patients to WellSpan Philhaven locations across York County, including an Edgar Street location in York City.

“We already considered these patients our patients,” he said.

Reaction: "I find the loss of the clinic to be sad for the community," said Carla Christopher, a regional field coordinator with Put People First PA.

"We believe health care is a human right," she said of her grassroots organization.

Christopher said the closure came to her attention when an East Side Health Center patient alerted Put People First about a notification letter he received.

"He was totally freaked out," she said. "Not having services or medication for a day can destabilize your entire medical, emotional and mental state."

Christopher said she was disappointed with the facility's planned closure, which she said reduces choice and complicates accessibility.

"People are just getting letters of where they’re being reassigned to," she said, adding, "I find it so ironic that May is Mental Health Awareness Month."

Christopher called the York City location "very walkable for a city that is not known for its transportation," and added the availability of care may be compromised for a community that urgently needs it.

"Accessibility is very important — getting the health when you need it," she said. "This is not the care that you can put off until you absolutely need it."

Christopher said the health center's possible re-opening under a new provider is encouraging. She said she hopes the doctor can reveal his or her plans so organizations such as Put People First PA can help.

East Side Health Center will close June 30.

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