CHATHAM — No one will get turned away at a new health clinic that has opened in Chatham.
“We see patients regardless of their ability to pay,” said TCA Health’s CEO, Veronica Clarke.
The clinic’s officials, along with Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) and local partners, celebrated the official grand opening of the 4,000 square-foot facility at 8425 S. Cottage Grove Ave. on Friday.
[Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), left, Melinda Kelly, Chatham Business Association’s board member, center, Joseph Caldwell Sr., and Veronica Clarke, TCA Health’s CEO, right. Photo/Andrea V. Watson]
TCA Health provides comprehensive primary health care and support services to more than 7,000 patients annually, said the clinic’s officials.
TCA Health-Chatham will host a full-time physician, family nurse practitioner, a dentist and dental hygienist, licensed clinical social worker, and an infectious disease specialist. Those eligible for WIC, a federal assistance program for women, infants and children, will be accepted. The location is a WIC site.
The Federally Qualified Health Center provides affordable and high quality primary health care for all of its patients, Clarke said.
The new location is the sixth facility on the South Side, including its Mobile Student Health Clinic. All forms of insurance are accepted, she said, but if a patient can’t afford the services, that’s alright.
“We decided we need to be in this community, we needed to expand our reach,” Clarke said.
Their service area includes the Chatham community and extends to Burnside, Avalon Park, Greater Grand Crossing, Auburn Gresham, Washington Park and Woodlawn.
The demographics in those neighborhoods combined show that “nearly 63,000 [residents] are low-income and are not served by health centers,” Clarke said. “We thought there was a strong need and we want to help fulfill some of those medical needs.”
“With the incidents of infant mortality, cancer and HIV among the highest in Chicago, we knew that our services were greatly needed in this community,” she said.
Established in 1970 as a privately-owned clinic, TCA Health was founded to provide quality health care services to Chicago’s medically underserved and underrepresented communities, according to the clinic’s officials.
About 90 percent of TCA’s patients live below 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, Clarke said. More than 20 percent of Federally Qualified Health Center patients don’t have insurance, she said.
In their service area, patients are more likely to have chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
“We come to address some of those issues, along with our partners, because we can’t do it alone,” Clarke said.
The University of Chicago Medicine has committed to partnering with the new clinic.
An infectious disease specialist will soon be on site, said Kimberly Hobson, director of Strategic Hospital Affiliations and South Side Health Collaborative.
“We will be providing HIV services for patients on the South Side of Chicago,” Hobson said.
[The new clinic has five exam rooms and a dental suite. Photos/Andrea V. Watson]
Harris said she welcomes the new health clinic in her ward and is excited because it’s desperately needed.
“To have a center that’s going to take people regardless of their ability to pay is awesome,” Harris said, adding that the location is both transit and pedestrian friendly.
“In our community, we suffer in silence,” she said. “I think having resources right here on Cottage Grove are really essential to helping black folks begin the rebuilding and getting healthy again.”
Clarke said their health clinics are purposely located in areas of high need. The goal is to reduce health disparities.
The new clinic requires at least $600,000 in federal funds, annually, to operate. Community health centers nationwide are in need of additional funding, Clarke said, which is why health officials with TCA have been communicating with members of Congress to ensure the dollars don’t stop.
“Everyone right now is operating in a financially conservative way,” she said. “We’re hopeful that funding will continue.”