FORT JACKSON,S.C. -- For some family members, making the drive from their Northeast Columbia homes to receive health care can be a hassle. With traffic, rising gas prices and gathering the children, a simple trip to the doctor can become an all-day event. But Moncrief Army Community Hospital has taken a step to make it easier for off-post families to receive health care, with the opening of the first Community Based Medical Home clinic in South Carolina.

The clinic, which is open to family members of active-duty Soldiers, is a way to bring the hospital\'s services closer to those who live off post. Soldiers will still have to report to MACH for their medical treatment. "A major goal of the program is to better manage patient care, reducing unnecessary tests, drug prescriptions, doctor visits and avoidable hospital admissions and emergency department visits," said Bobby Vascovich, Moncrief Medical Home group practice manager.

The 10,000-square-foot clinic is located at 1021 Pinnacle Pointe Drive, and is open to family members who live in the greater Columbia area.

"We are elated to open the first Community Based Primary Care Clinic in this state," said Col. Ramona Fiorey, MACH commander. "Our population deserves the best medical care and attention available and we plan to offer them just that through the medical home model in the community where they live."

Danna Ackland, the wife of Staff Sgt. Phillip Ackland, 165th Infantry Brigade, said she looks forward to using the new clinic versus the sometimes frustrating commute from their Northeast Columbia home.

"Sometimes I have those early appointments on Family Day or graduation and it makes it difficult to get there," Ackland said. "It will make it a lot easier to have something close to our home."

The Moncrief Medical Home will have 35 staff members and three physicians, most of whom were already on the MACH team. Other team members were hired specifically to offer primary care services in the community where the beneficiaries live. Those who decide to enroll in the program will also have access to limited pharmacy and lab services at the clinic.

Maj. Phil Vance, a DENTAC dentist and his wife, Nikki Tran, are the first registered family with the new clinic.

"My wife and I are really pleased. It is going to be a great opportunity for us because we live so close to that facility," he said. "Having two children, this is going to make my wife's life much easier. We are very excited about the care. Everyone there seems so friendly."

Those eligible may apply for a primary care manager change request to a MACH Medical Home provider. Beneficiary letters will be mailed to eligible family members, who can complete the enrollment form and fax it to the Fort Jackson TRICARE Service Center or drop it off at the center in Building 4500 on Stuart Street between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Forms can also be picked up from the TRICARE Service Center. After paperwork is submitted, patients should continue to be seen by their current provider. Moncrief Medical Home staff will contact enrollees to schedule an initial appointment to meet the care team.

"Receiving these services within the Moncrief Medical Home will allow our beneficiaries to truly experience patient-centered care through the medical-home model, which offers the convenience of consolidated services within one location," Vascovich said.