Public Housing Health Centers Day – #NHCW18

Celebrating Public Housing Health Centers: Pine Ridge Family Health Center 

The theme of National Health Center Week 2018 – Celebrating Health Centers: Home of America’s Health Care Heroes- is meant to recognize individuals who exceed the call of duty to support health centers in providing accessible, cost-effective, and high quality health care for patients in all 50 states and territories. Today we celebrate Public Housing Health Centers Day because roughly 10% of health center patients reside in public housing. Mari Tucker, MBA and Shirley Dinkel, PhD., APRN, FAANP of the National Nurse-Led Consortium (NNCC) , a national leader supporting and advocating on behalf of nurse leaders, highlight Pine Ridge Family Health Center (PRFHC),  a unique primary care clinic owned and operated by a local public housing authority. 


When considering new initiatives, it is uncommon to use mantras as guides.  However, those of us at Washburn University who are involved in the “Classroom to Community” (C2C) grant project have done just that.  “Start with yes” was led by “Follow the miracles” which resulted in the development and implementation of the Pine Ridge Family Health Center (PRFHC).  This unique primary care clinic is the only known clinic in the nation owned and operated by a local public housing authority – Topeka Housing Authority (THA). 

We have not relied solely on divine intervention to guide success. The PRFHC is the culminating result of collaborative efforts by Washburn University faculty and staff, THA executive staff, community leaders, and most importantly, residents.  Using a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) model, residents are partners in and co-creators of the project.  In 2016, residents participated in community assessment survey development which ultimately revealed three primary concerns: a lack of access to affordable primary care, a health literacy deficit, and a financial literacy deficit.  Pine Ridge Manor public housing community is home to approximately 500 people, half of whom are 17 years old or younger.  Females are the heads of household for 76% of the units and 90% of the 197 households live at or below 100% of the federal poverty level.  As a result, we focused efforts on addressing community identified needs by designing and implementing the PRFCH in residents’ own neighborhood.

The PRFHC responds to the need for affordable health care and offers primary care services at no or low cost to residents and surrounding neighborhoods.  A doctorally prepared nurse practitioner provides primary care services which include, but are not be limited to, urgent care for minor illness, care of chronic conditions, immunizations, school/sports physicals, and age appropriate health screenings. Currently, the clinic is a network provider for all three Kansas Medicaid service providers, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Medicare. 

With an eye to the future, we continue to work with residents to drive change in the Pine Ridge community.  Based on resident input, plans are underway to include on-site dental and optometry services.  One local optometry office donated an entire room of equipment to help us jump start this initiative.  The clinic also serves as the springboard for the development of an interprofessional education (IPE) model which addresses factors influencing social determinants of health. Program offerings includes: health communication (health literacy, age appropriate information, translation services); financial literacy (budgeting, establishing credit, debt reconciliation, tax preparation); legal literacy (durable power of attorney, living will); and wellness initiatives (cooking classes, on-site farmer’s market, fitness trail and free bicycles).  Students will work side-by-side with providers and residents to co-create meaningful change. 

With a focus on the patient experience of care, improved resident health outcomes, and delivery of affordable services, the C2C project and PRFHC have actualized academic-practice partnerships, fulfilled the goals of the Quadruple Aim, and are the mainspring for creating and sustaining a culture of health in the Pine Ridge community.  

In the words of one PRFHC patient: “I want to give a shout out to all of the staff at Pine Ridge and to THA as a whole for one of the very best experiences I’ve had accessing and receiving health care in my entire adult life. The Nurse Practitioner was thorough and compassionate and when leaving the office, all I could think about was the quality of my experience and care from start to finish. I knew at that moment that this would be my new primary medical care clinic. The collective attentiveness and direct action by the housing authority and primary clinic staff are definitely making a difference to the underprivileged residing in public housing in Topeka.”

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