Coalition of Community Health Clinics in the News Metro grant provides free health care
Coalition of Community Health Clinics in the News
Metro grant provides free health care
North by Northeast clinic gets $5,650 to help chronically ill
By Mariah Summers
For nearly two years, the North by Northeast Community Health Center has provided free health care services for uninsured adults in North Portland, offering help for patients with common chronic diseases.
Now, 1,300 visits and 726 patients later, the health center’s efforts are being recognized with a $5,650 grant from the Metro Council’s Community Enhancement Program.
“Metro’s grant program continues to motivate people to step forward and make something extraordinary happen in their neighborhood,” said Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, chairman of Metro’s North Portland Enhancement Committee. “The awards support innovative solutions that help solve neighborhood problems and improve the quality of life for residents.”
“North by Northeast Community Health Center’s grant proposal was responsive to Metro’s funding guidelines that result in employment and economic opportunities for North and Northeast Portland residents,” Metro’s Karen Blauer said.
The health center, at 4725 N. Williams Ave., was started in August 2006 by Pastor Mary Overstreet, a longtime advocate for the poor and vulnerable in Portland. Overstreet was motivated to help residents of North Portland who recently had moved to the area after Hurricane Katrina.
She soon discovered a need for a community health clinic, not only for the hurricane victims, but for all neighborhood residents. Overstreet enlisted the help of Dr. Jill Ginsberg, a family physician with Kaiser Permanante, to help open the health center, a proposal Ginsberg couldn’t turn down.
“I wanted to see if I could help Pastor Mary in some way,” Ginsberg said. “I was so inspired by her actions, and I started talking to people at Kaiser to find equipment and doctors for the clinic.”
Today, North by Northeast has a staff of 15 volunteer physicians and holds free walk-in clinics from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday out of a small building on North Williams Avenue that formerly housed a bakery. There are two exam rooms and a small waiting area, usually packed with 15 to 20 patients each week.
At the clinics, patients are provided with blood pressure screenings, immunizations, assistance with free or low-cost medications, ongoing care for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, and off-site laboratory services provided by Legacy Health System at no cost.
A patient advocate is available during clinics for social service information and referrals. Monday evening follow-up appointments also are offered for established patients.
The funding for the clinic is primarily from private donations, foundations and corporate donors.
“It was great to receive the Metro grant,” said Suzy Jeffreys, North by Northeast’s clinic manager. “The whole process was very encouraging and affirming. Metro wants the money to be available to local grass-roots, small organizations. It was a wonderful gift.”
The clinic will use the funding from the Metro grant to purchase a year’s worth of prescription medications for patients on the clinic’s chronic disease list. The grant money also will go toward a year’s worth of diabetic test strips for patients.
Funds for Metro’s North Portland grants were generated from a 50-cent surcharge collected on each ton of garbage brought to the now-closed St. Johns landfill. Interest generated on the fund supports the grant program.
According to Ginsberg, North by Northeast’s main focus is addressing the need for care and management of chronic diseases in the community.
“One of the hopes we have is that providing patients help with chronic disease management will get them back into the workforce and make them better able to support their families,” Jeffreys said.
Another of North by Northeast’s goals is to keep people out of the emergency room and reduce costly visits to urgent care by helping patients manage common chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and hypertension.
“There is an assumption that there are more resources and places to go for urgent care,” Jeffreys said. “But I think it’s really important to focus on chronic disease management. We want to see a healthy community in North and Northeast Portland. This clinic is trying to contribute to the overall health of the neighborhood.”
As of July 2008, patients established at the clinic have reduced their use of emergency rooms by 30 percent, according to the clinic’s July update report.
Ginsberg is proud of North by Northeast’s impact in the neighborhood.
“It is most rewarding to know that people see the clinic as a safe place in the community,” she said. “I am most proud of the quality care we’ve given the people who have mostly been left out of the health care world.”