The Northeast Region of Travis County is growing rapidly, and with it the number of families living in poverty.

Central Health, which provides health care for families and individuals living below the federal poverty level, is hoping to use population growth predictions to better serve indigent residents of Travis County.

According to Central Health’s predictions, based on U.S. Census and Nielsen data, Travis County will see about 133,780 new residents by 2019—a nearly 12 percent increase. The number of families living in poverty is expected to grow by nearly 13 percent, and 83 percent of those are families with children, according to Central Health.

Sarah Malm, senior director of Central Health Strategy and Business Development, presented the data to the Central Health board of managers at its Oct. 7 meeting. Of the eight Central Health planning regions in Travis County—East, North Central,  Northeast, Northwest, South Central, Southeast, Southwest and West Central—the Northeast, punctuated by Pflugerville, is expected to see the largest growth in population with nearly 24,000 new residents predicted by 2019, Malm said.

The data show Pflugerville’s growth will span age, ethnicity and income brackets.

Malm said the population of seniors age 65 and older is expected to nearly double between 2010 and 2019, and the growth will be concentrated mostly around Pflugerville as well as in western Travis County.

The data was compiled to help guide Central Health in deciding on future clinic locations, Malm said. Board member Clarke Heidrick suggested mobile facilities might be a wiser investment as the population shifts northeast.

Central Health President and CEO Patricia Young Brown noted the entity has a number of facilities that are aging or in need of expansion.

Nonprofit gets go-ahead on patient navigation center

Later in the meeting, the board voted 6-1 to give Central Health staff permission to move forward with acquiring a new facility to serve as a center for patient navigation services, near the intersection of US 183 and MoPac. Board member Cynthia Valadez cast the dissenting vote, and board member Dr. Thomas Coopwood abstained.

Dr. Mark Hernandez, Community Care Collaborative chief medical officer, said the nonprofit formed by Central Health and Seton Healthcare Family is working to improve specialty care and centralize patient navigation.

Through Central Health, patients are offered health care services by a number of separate organizations in the community, and Community Care Collaborative intends to help navigate patients through the different organizations and providers, Hernandez said. The first step is centralizing patient appointments across the collaborative’s 24 clinics, he said.

“We want there to be one place; all appointments are generated out of that location,” he said.

The collaborative also intends to centralize and update its process for referrals, which are still processed through fax machines, and expand the hours of operation for its nurse help line, Hernandez said.

Brown said the collaborative has identified a building previously occupied by Lone Star Circle of Care at 8701 N. MoPac to house a new patient navigation center, a staff training room and space to conduct pilot programs intended to help the entity figure out how to better manage population health.

Jeff Knodel, vice president and chief financial officer of Central Health, said the 16,000-square-foot building needs no major renovations and is available for 15 percent below market value. He estimated the lease would cost Central Health more than $360,000 a year and gradually increase along with the market rate.

Board chair Katrina Daniel, who voted to move forward with acquiring the space, noted a previous proposal for a property twice as large and expensive.

“I think taking a scaled approached [to expansion] … makes me more comfortable,” she said.