Forest Parker Andre Hines would make a star witness for any defense team seeking to prove the effectiveness of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Hines, who has a Ph.D. in healthcare administration and is CEO of Circle Family HealthCare Network on Chicago’s West Side, was notified on July 14 that her agency was going to receive a half million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The money is to be used to construct what HHS calls “school based health centers” (SBHCs) at Proviso West High School in Hillside and at Marshall High School in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood.
SBHCs are full-scale healthcare clinics that are located on school grounds. They are staffed by professional medical and healthcare attendants who offer students a variety of services that range from physician care to alcohol and drug counseling.
The health centers are a growing trend in the U.S. A report from HHS states that there are currently 2,000 nationwide, and that The Affordable Care Act appropriated $200 million in grant funding to support the program from 2010-2013. What’s more, in July 2011, alone, $95 million was awarded to 278 SBHCs, which allowed them to serve 440,000 patients. Currently, some 790,000 patients are treated around the country.
Hines was excited when she heard about the grant, partly because she knows from experience that SBHCs can dramatically improve the delivery of healthcare to underserved populations. Circle has been operating a school-based clinic at Austin High School in Chicago for the past two and a half years and has seen a significant decrease in noncompliance for healthcare exams and a corresponding increase in required immunizations.
The $500,000 will be used to renovate classrooms at both Marshall and Proviso West into clinics that will be equipped with three examination rooms, a lab, a reception area and a nurse’s station. What’s more, environmentally friendly materials will be used to remodel the clinics, which should be up and running in 2012.
According to Circle, the clinics will be open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Both sites will be staffed by a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, a part-time health educator, two medical assistants, a part-timed licensed behavioral healthcare counselor, and a network pediatrician, who will be available for consultation.
Furthermore, Circle estimates that staff will see some 1,300 patients at Proviso West, alone, and an additional 500 at Marshall, during the first year of operation.
Hines talked about the importance of offering an array of healthcare, beyond medical treatment.
“When we provide a licensed behavioral health counselor together with a provider and a nurse,” she said, “it makes such a difference as far as bringing people to good health. They get to the nitty-gritty of what’s going on. A lot of times it’s not so much a physical illness. Oftentimes it’s ‘I’m angry.'”
Nick Moroni contributed to this article.