NorthCare, along with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Healthy Living, Inc., a nonprofit linked to Putnam City Baptist Church, are negotiating with city officials to run one of the four planned wellness centers. Construction on the first wellness center is estimated to begin in 2016.
“I think we should have been the first choice the first time around, but we weren’t even selected (by the senior wellness center subcommittee),” he said. “I think our proposal was the best then, and it hasn’t changed. The others have changed their (proposals) to match ours.”
NorthCare’s chance of becoming a partner with OKC improved when it was reinstated as a possible candidate following a heated city council meeting July 30. NorthCare received the endorsement of three councilmen, veteran’s advocate Ed Pulido and Terri White, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Still, Tate isn’t exuding confidence that NorthCare will be granted the right to run one of the centers.
“That’s the $10 million question. I don’t feel like there’s a consensus about what they (council members) want for our city. I don’t know how this process will unfold,” he said, “but it is an interesting drama being played out. I don’t think it was properly vetted on what it could be.” Through early negotiations, Tate has agreed to consider a south OKC wellness center if city officials can purchase land on the Capitol Hill High School campus (500 S.W. 36th St.). Ward 4 Councilman Pete White has said he believes all of the centers should be built on city-owned land to avoid potential pitfalls later. NorthCare’s original application called for constructing a wellness center at its proposed new campus near the state fairgrounds.
After receiving four applications, the wellness center subcommittee recommended only the Oklahoma City- County Health Department as an operating partner.
However, the recommendation was amended twice by the Oklahoma City Council to include Healthy Living and NorthCare in the negotiation process.
NorthCare became part of the equation for a second time after a political push by Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, Ward 4 Councilman Pete White and Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis, Jr.
During the July 30 council meeting, the three councilmen said they did not understand why NorthCare had not been selected.
“They have the best proposal of any of them,” White said.
Shadid referenced NorthCare’s work with military veterans and its experience with mental health issues as a plus.
“Hands down, NorthCare is the best proposal,” Shadid said, acknowledging that the agency has stronger credentials.
Toeing the line
Tate says NorthCare is the only entity that has met every criteria city officials requested.
Most notably, NorthCare did not include a public subsidy request in its proposal.
Healthy Living and the health department asked for city funding. Healthy Living requested $100,000 for the first year only, and the health department requested $783,261 over five years.
In addition, Tate pointed out that NorthCare went beyond the “community center and swim club” concept originally developed by MAPS 3 and city officials.
“If that’s all the city wanted, then I wouldn’t be interested,” Tate said. “But this is an opportunity to knock the ball out of the ballpark by including some health programs. Most people associated with the wellness centers now envision a comprehensive program that includes aquatics, games, social activities along with an emphasis on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.”
NorthCare’s proposal offers a variety of prevention programs, including integrated clinical services, dental and vision care, access to a wellness coach, a pharmacy, chronic disease screenings and immunizations. The wellness centers will be designed to serve OKC residents 50 and older, which numbers 168,700 people, or 29.2 percent of the total city population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census data.
NorthCare offered the only proposal that brings Metro Transit buses to its doorstep.
Tate is unsure if he will pursue the project in a later round if NorthCare is not selected.
“It took a year of preparation for this bid,” he said. “I’m not sure my offering could be improved.”