When you think of a community initiative centered primarily on education, your first guesses of likely partners may not include healthcare providers. However, engaging the medical community has been key to pursuing Future Ready Collier’s priorities. Healthcare Network, founded in Immokalee in 1977, today operates approximately 20 practices throughout Collier County, as well as two mobile units and telehealth. As a community health center, their scope encompasses pediatric through adult primary care, dental, women’s health, and integrated behavioral health—a collaborative form of care where medical providers and behavioral health providers work together to address physical mental and emotional needs. It is their ability to interact with families and children daily that underscores Healthcare Network’s contributions.
About Healthcare Network
Both as it relates to Future Ready Collier and more generally, Healthcare Network’s impact is broadly felt. In support of education-focused goals, their centers are vital partners. The youngest children, under age 5, are typically the hardest to reach. What’s more, the rate of kindergarteners deemed ‘ready’ hovers only around 50 percent. To get the right help to the people who need it most, it’s critical to be able to call on resources like Healthcare Network, who provide care regardless of employment, income or insurance status. Trusted by their patients, the centers can both share and gather information sensitively and broadly.
Connection to Education
First, as healthcare providers, the centers are adept at administering school physicals and important developmental screenings. Primary care of all ages is central to Healthcare Network’s core purpose. As early learning is the least monitored and most diffuse phase of education, it is important to have various means by which to reach families. To optimize early interventions, it’s imperative to know quickly if a child would benefit from extra attention.
Second, because the centers are dispersed across Collier County, they are effective distribution sites. Waiting rooms equipped with TV screens can be a strategic solution to get information out from the schools and other partners. Providers can give materials directly to parents, supplying booklists and literacy tools. One-on-one conversations may be more effective than dispensing materials electronically or through other bulk means.
Delivering Comprehensive Care
Of course, Healthcare Network’s chief commitment is to help ensure healthcare is accessible. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, their professionals have been working overtime. This has included free COVID testing as well as continuing to meet patients’ day-to-day healthcare needs.
Healthcare Network’s services wrap together all aspects of primary care, including integrated behavioral health. Integrated care incorporates behavioral treatment into what is sometimes referred to as a patient’s medical home. The idea is simple, that connecting all the dots of a person’s wellbeing leads to better outcomes. As the stress of current circumstances has compiled, it is understandable that individuals’ emotional resilience is being tested. Treating each patient as a whole person and coordinating a team-based assistance approach is especially meaningful now.
Taking Care of the Community’s Mental Wellness
Healthcare Network has been proactive about communicating to both patients and providers on the importance of seeking help when needed. Healthcare Network has a staff of psychologists and behavioral care specialists who are adept at working with children and adults. In addition, Healthcare Network has rolled out a series of virtual conversations, as well as private, free (up to 3 visits) counseling sessions for health sector workers. Those working to keep others well and safe daily may not always have the time or capacity to tend to their own emotional needs. Healthcare Network wants to encourage open dialogue to mitigate psychological harm to essential frontline workers.
Meeting Growing Needs for Community Health
Amid unparalleled strain on people and resources, Healthcare Network only anticipates increasing in scale. Recently, they opened a 51,000-square-foot location, the Nichols Community Health Center, in Golden Gate. This site will offer children’s care, women’s health services, primary care, integrated behavioral health, drive-through pharmacy, and eventually dental care. The excitement of opening the doors to this facility provided a welcome dose of positivity and reprieve from relentless urgency.
The organization’s already strong relationship with Future Ready Collier evolves, as well. Partners are in active conversation to creatively use the centers’ built-in network. Providers acknowledge that early childhood screenings are a priority to enhance. The opportunity to connect directly with other community stakeholders, to share data and best practices, takes on added value in times of crisis. As the full effect on jobs and the economy is yet to be known, it’s reassuring that the Healthcare Network will continue as a dependable, accessible and affordable source of fundamental healthcare services.