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Neighborhood Health helps to fill the health care gap for people who are homeless

Oct 02 2019
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Neighborhood Health helps to fill the health care gap for people who are homeless

By: Bailey Basham

 

This story is part of a series about homelessness and health care. Read more about TennCare's coverage gap and Centerstone's Key's to Recovery program. 

 

Back in 1976, Neighborhood Health looked a bit different, according to Brian Haile, the network’s CEO.  First of all, the clinics were operated from an old house on 12th Avenue South and in a public housing apartment in Cayce Homes. The clinics, which were volunteer-led, had been started as a way to address the lack of accessible and affordable healthcare in south and east Nashville neighborhoods. 

More than 40 years later, Neighborhood Health has evolved into a network of 13 neighborhood health centers, all of which are still aimed at bridging the healthcare gap in the city. 

Every year, Neighborhood Health cares for more than 30,000 patients, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay, their medical history, nationality or insurance status. Haile, CEO of Neighborhood Health, said of the 30,000 patients, 17,000 are uninsured and 5,100 are experiencing homelessness. 

Neighborhood Health provides care to people experiencing homelessness at all 13 clinics, providing lab tests, prescriptions and physicals for people of all ages and backgrounds. The organization’s Downtown and Mission clinics are two that are specifically focused on homeless services.

“When I came to neighborhood health, I had some picture in my mind about what homelessess was — people who hang out at the library or people who line up at Room In The Inn, but the idea that homelessness is concentrated to downtown is far from the whole story. We have our downtown clinics, but patients routinely tell us that they are grateful that they’re able to get care no matter where they are in the city. We try to be where people are,” Haile said.

Haile has been with Neighborhood Health since October 2017, and he said in a city like Nashville — one that is quickly becoming home to more and more people struggling with high deductibles or a lack of insurance — Neighborhood Health’s mission is crucial. 

“We are the largest provider private of primary care in middle Tennessee, and we are the largest provider of care for persons of color. Caring for all populations is what’s front and center to our mission,” Haile said. 

Haile also said that it’s Neighborhood Health’s continued presence in communities throughout the city that makes them unique. And for many patients, like those living with recurring health conditions or chronic pain, it’s consistency that makes all the difference.   

“What makes this work and what really achieves better health outcomes for patients is to have primary care available day in and day out,” he said. “If you think about it, you would never ask a mother to take her child to seven different doctors to get care for her child. You would never want to take your father who is on Medicare to seven different doctors. You may have 7 wonderfully gifted providers, but they’re not going to have what’s necessary when it comes to the history with the patients.”

Everything Haile and the clinicians at Neighborhood Health do is focused on building continuity. 

“The best thing we can do is to help people achieve a quality of life that should be available to everyone. That needs to be our focus this year and next year and every year,” he said.

 

For more information about Neighborhood Health, visit NeighborhoodHealthTN.org or call 615-227-3000. 


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