Raphael Health Center meets community’s growing health needs through strategic partnerships

by Shari Finnell, editor/writer, Not-for-profit News

On a day-to-day basis, the staff at Raphael Health Center gets an intimate look at the challenges facing residents impacted by social determinants of health — the conditions and environments that can contribute to disproportionately higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, infant mortality, and other health risks. The center, located at 401 E. 34th St., is in the heart of a neighborhood with a median income of $56,563 — significantly lower than the national median income of $69, 021.

In recent years, the nonprofit comprehensive care facility which focuses on providing care to underinsured and uninsured households, has seen medical needs significantly increase within the community it serves, according to Sherry Gray, Raphael Health Center’s CEO, and Lauren Scharenbrock, project manager of a new strategic partnership, 34th and Beyond.

Gray, along with other members of the Raphael team, recently announced the launch of the initiative, which will provide medical services to an increasing number of patients without expanding the medical facility.

“We’ve been looking at our building and looking at the needs in our community, and we’re seeing a disconnect,” Scharenbrock said. “There’s a lot going on in a small space. We can only serve so many people in this location. We only have so many rooms, we only have so much space, and we have used every last inch of it.”

Instead of focusing on plans to expand its current building or developing a new medical center, the Raphael team looked at its partners as a way to provide medical, behavioral health, optometry, and dental care to individuals and families more cost effectively.

Through a pilot program with Salvation Army’s mental recovery house, the center will focus on sending medical providers to various partner sites one day or two days a week to meet patients where they’re at, Scharenbrock said.

According to Jesse Links, manager of rehabilitation services for the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center, 711 E. Washington St., the 34th and Beyond initiative has already produced results.

“We saw an increase in our completion percentage, and an increase in retention, and an increase in new people coming into the program,” said Links, noting that the medical center provided on-site services during 75 appointments in January.

Fulfilling an expanding need

As part of the 34th and Beyond initiative, Raphael Health Center also plans to provide a range of comprehensive services to clients served by other partner nonprofit organizations, including Gennesaret Free Clinics and Pathway to Recovery.

Scharenbrock said that the initiative enables patients to receive services more quickly by eliminating the barriers many of them face when seeking medical care.

While receiving comprehensive quality healthcare can be challenging for many American households, it can be particularly difficult for individuals facing homelessness or who are impoverished.

“Healthcare, in general, is too expensive,” she said. “But many of the people we serve don’t have insurance or transportation. Getting them here can be difficult sometimes. We may need to give them bus passes or arrange for them to come by Lyft.

Scharenbrock also noted that many people are not aware of the options available to them.

“We are focused on bridging that gap by going to where they are,” she said. “It reduces the financial barriers, the transportation barriers, and the fear of the unknown because they’re already in a place that is familiar. We’re really hoping to use the trust the partner organizations have with their clients and build upon that to connect them with the services that they need.”

Effective partnerships built upon trust

The comprehensive services provided by Raphael Health Center is an added tool that Salvation Army clients can rely on for help when they’re struggling, Links said.

Links said that communication and trust have been essential in continuing a partnership that could help serve its rehabilitation program clients with co-occurring conditions, such as behavioral health challenges, substance abuse, and psychological disorders.

“We’re not a clinical treatment program,” he noted. “We are a faith-based rehabilitation program. There was a gap in some of the types of services we could offer individuals. We were looking for one place that could meet our men’s needs.”

“Communication is key — being open and meeting our guys where they’re at,” he said. “They never turn them away, whether they’re insured or not insured.”

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