Community health centers: Quality service in the hood

admin | 2/15/2012, 7:30 a.m.

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Believe it or not, it was President Lyndon Johnson's Administration that first recognized the need to provide quality health care in America's poorest neighborhoods. Johnson and his staff believed, "If we can keep people healthy, we can solve other social problems."

His "War on Poverty" lead to the creation of what was first considered neighborhood services, but has since spread into a successful network of community health services and centers that, to this day, still provide much-needed health care closer to home and at prices affordable to the people of the surrounding community.

In Miami-Dade County, local residents have witnessed the success of Johnson's health initiative simply by observing the growth and expansion of the Jessie Trice Community Health Center. Formally called the Economic Opportunity Family Health Center, Inc., the center formally changed its name in 2008 in honor of Jessie Trice, the administrator credited with establishing a strong foundation for the agency and pioneering its path of excellence in providing health care services.

Today, at the helm is Annie Neasman, a registered nurse with a masters degree in science, who serves as its president and CEO. Neasman oversees what started as a trailer in the Model City area, but has grown into a network of facilities that features a host of quality services ranging from medical and dental, to behavioral counseling, pediatrics, HIV/AIDS services, substance abuse and transportation.

The Centers professional staff includes medical doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical social workers and nutritionists whose care and attention is overseen by the same federal monitoring agencies that monitor patient care and accreditation of America's largest hospitals. However, the difference here is in the Trice Center's non-profit status and the government funding it receives. This allows the Center to charge patients on a sliding scale based on the patient's ability to pay as opposed to a set price structure per service.

There are over 600,000 uninsured people in Miami-Dade County, Neasman said. "In 2011, the Jessie Trice Community Health Center serviced over 31,000 of those residents."

With an eye toward reaching more of the uninsured and impoverished citizens of Miami-Dade, Neasman says her agency is always looking to develop new partnerships and expanding into more communities. The target now is to increase the services provided in the City of Miami Gardens.

Today, the old medical trailer in Model City has grown to encompass seven facilities, completely modernized in services and electronic data storage. An outreach center has even been established on the campus of Florida Memorial University.

"We are all aging," Neasman said. "We all need to age well.

By Gregory Wright
Miami Times writer