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This series looks at how local, state and educational policies affect the neighborhood – everything from City Council representation to childhood obesity.

A Tipping Point for Health Care in Dove Springs?

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin runs from Ben White to William Cannon, bound by Montopolis and Pleasant Valley on the east, and Interstate 35 on the west.

Dove Springs is a neighborhood in transition: Two-thirds of the neighborhood population is Hispanic, making it one of the most rapidly growing immigrant neighborhoods in Austin. And one of the issues affecting Dove Springs is health and wellness.

Like a lot of low-income neighborhoods, diabetes is pretty common in Dove Springs. Prashant Reddy is one of the doctors at the William Cannon CommUnity Care – a clinic at the very edge of the area.

“About 50 percent of my adult population – that’s just a guess – is diabetic, obese. And I diagnose at least one new patient a week with diabetes,” Reddy says.

In 2010, Reddy’s clinic saw more than 2,700 patients from Dove Springs. This year so far, they’ve seen more than 5,500 people. That demand has put a strain on the clinic.

“We began to hear comments, ‘Well we need more,’” says Larry Wallace, vice president of service delivery with Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district. “We need a place where our patients and our residents can go and get lab tests … and you can establish a relationship with your own personal doctor,'" Wallace adds.

That’s just what the area is getting. Central Health is building a 70,000-square foot facility called the Southeast Health and Wellness Center. Slated to open in fall 2014, the center will cost Travis County taxpayers about $8 million. It will have exercise classes and nutrition counseling, aimed at combating some of the area’s biggest health challenges.

But one of its strongest critics is Ofelia Zapata.

“We need something right now. Because by the fall, our clinic is already going to be at capacity. So there still needs to be an answer for Dove Springs. And that’s not the answer for us,” Zapata says.

It might not be exactly what Zapata wants for her community, but in an area that historically hasn’t had access to quality health care – it’s a step in the right direction. 

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