What neighbors can expect from Bonton Farms’ new health clinic construction

By |Published On: January 31, 2024|Categories: South Dallas|
Bonton neighbors met at the Bonton Farms Café on Dec. 19, 2023, to discuss the services and construction plan for the clinic.

Bonton Farms hosted a groundbreaking celebration for their new primary care clinic in December. A week later, they invited neighbors to their café to hear about the plans.

More than three dozen community members showed up. Many of them had questions about the health clinic services, and they also expressed concerns  — not about the clinic itself but how the farm’s neighbors were (and weren’t) included in the process.

“This is not the Bonton Farms community; this is the Bonton neighborhood,” District 7 Plan Commissioner and Bonton native Tabitha Wheeler-Reagan said at the meeting. “The Bonton neighborhood needs to be a part of these conversations prior to a groundbreaking, prior to anything else happening.” 

Though construction begins this month, Bonton residents at the meeting indicated that few of them knew about the plan or were asked for feedback prior to Bonton Farms’ public announcement and groundbreaking for the site.

What is the clinic? 

The 11,000 square-foot building, a $5.2 million project overseen by Bonton Farms, will provide primary care services, a lab and wellness programming. Medical care will be provided through the Methodist Hospital System, while the wellness program is provided by the farm and Baylor Scott and White. 

According to Bonton Farms, $3 million of this project came from private donors through their Project Game Changer Capital Campaign, $750,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act via Dallas County, and $850,000 from the City of Dallas.

Beyond health and wellness, 1,000 square feet of the facility will be a financial resource center, the result of a partnership between nine different banks: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Southside Bank, Independent Financial, Tolleson Private Wealth, Texas Security Bank, First United Bank, Centennial Bank, Texas Capital Bank and Prosperity Bank.   

What services and programs will be provided? 

The clinic will provide primary care services and a full blood work lab, and the farm also is exploring the possibility of a pharmacy. Patients will be able to be referred to a wide variety of speciality services within the Methodist system, and transportation from the Bonton clinic to other medical care sites will be provided for free, based on referrals made at the clinic. All of these services will be available regardless of insurance status, but no specifics about pricing are available yet.  

Methodist Vice President Chrystee Cooper says the clinic will be staffed for primary care two days a week, which may be expanded based on community need and use.

For wellness programming, Bonton Farms and Baylor Scott and White are still open to community suggestions, but say they hosted five community conversations in spring 2023. Leilani Dodgen, a Baylor Scott and White research scientist who works on South Dallas programming, says the conversations focused on four main subjects: how neighbors define health, their previous health care experiences, their needs and concerns regarding health, and their experiences with Bonton Farms. 

Baylor Scott and White shared their existing South Dallas programs, like those at the Juanita Craft Recreation Center, and heard from Bonton neighbors about how best to deliver wellness programs. Dodgen says residents should look forward to cooking, Zumba, and dance classes, similar to current offerings at Craft. 

Residents specifically asked about mental health services. While Bonton Farms says it will partner with UT Southwestern for general counseling at the clinic, Bonton Farms president Gabe Madison says that they are working on a partnership to service addiction rehabilitation, and information will be shared with the community once finalized. 

These medical services will be available to community members for a reduced cost, or for free in qualifying cases. Bonton Farms has not yet released pricing information or qualifications for free care.

The financial resource center will provide services such as credit repair, debt management, budgeting, life insurance and small loans, in order to “provide fundamental tools the community needs to address their financial health and wellbeing.”

When will the clinic open? 

The lot for the Bonton Health and Wellness Center on Carlton Street on Jan. 29, 2024.

Bonton Farms broke ground on the clinic in early December, and construction manager Bill Hall says they expect the building to open in early 2025. Concrete will be poured in January, and Hall says neighbors should expect construction between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. 

Madison says Bonton Farms will host quarterly public meetings throughout construction to provide neighbors with updates and collect feedback about clinic programming. 

“The reason why this [meeting] was so important is because we want to break down the barrier that exists between the community and Bonton Farms,” Madison says. “I’m here to break down that barrier; we want and desire for there to be more collaboration, for us to hear what the needs are, and attend to those needs, to build the infrastructure necessary for those needs to be met.”

What are neighbors saying?

A handful of South Dallas neighbors, like Wheeler-Reagan, expressed that while the clinic could be a useful service, the farm isn’t communicating with neighbors about their needs and how services could best be tailored for the people of Bonton. 

One South Dallas resident, from outside of Bonton, asked how Bonton Farms determined a clinic was necessary for this part of town. Madison says the idea came from needs assessments done by Parkland Health and Dallas County, and stories farm staff heard from the community.

“We heard a story about a lady who was taking people to different clinics, and talking a lot to those community members,” Madison says. “We started digging into this more, looking into the research done by Parkland and Dallas County, and asking for help to dig deeper to see what we needed to look at to address the needs.”

The same South Dallas resident also asked why a clinic was a priority, given that similar services exist at the Foremost Family Health Center at the MLK Center and through Baylor Scott & White at the Juanita Craft Recreation Center. Bonton Farms and Methodist both say that, given how limited services are in South Dallas, it’s helpful for neighbors to have choices in where they go, and what services are available to them. 

Multiple residents, including neighborhood pastor Marlon Duncan of The Lord’s Church, a block away from Bonton Farms, noted that his congregation was not invited to the groundbreaking, though it was advertised as a community event. 

While Wheeler-Reagan said she appreciates some of the community services Bonton Farms has provided, she’s concerned about how the nonprofit’s leaders are making decisions.

“These conversations are supposed to go through [the neighborhood association] and go through the neighborhood and work with the nonprofits, not the opposite way around,” Wheeler-Reagan says. “Services that are not focused towards communities, especially communities of color, it can go a different way because somebody else’s vision does not fit our community.”

But some community members, such as Paulette Garrett-Hill, a lifelong Bonton resident, see the clinic as a major community asset. Garrett-Hill says her neighbors have always been willing to help each other out, and Bonton Farms has fit in well with community values. 

“They answered all of my questions, I didn’t walk away with any doubt,” Garrett-Hill says after  attending the meeting. “Bottom line: Health care is important, and we need to take care of ourselves in these fast-paced days that we live in.

“It’s going to help better our lives. It can’t help but help.”  

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About the Author: Michaela Rush

Michaela Rush joined Dallas Free Press in July 2023, as a Report for America Corps Member. Prior to joining RFA and DFP, Michaela worked at The Battalion student newspaper at Texas A&M, most recently as the editor-in-chief, covering campus news, local businesses, student organizations and LGBTQ+ topics. Outside of journalism, she plays several instruments, including flute and alto saxophone, and is a self-proclaimed “band nerd.”

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Report for America Corps Member

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