By Micah Clemens
The Unity Health Care Upper Cardozo Neighborhood Health Center sits on 14th Street in a changing community in Washington D.C. Unity’s President and CEO Vincent Keane described how people judged the building as “a great big concrete box” or “a classic expression of brutalism architecture.” The building itself is part of Washington D.C.’s history, built in 1969 on a lot destroyed by fire during the 1968 riots. Since then, it has served as a medical home for the community for over 40 years. As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Unity Health Care received $12 million in federal funding to renovate its Upper Cardozo Health Center site and better meet the changing demographics and growing needs of the community. The renovated site opened this week in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by local leaders.
“We Treat You Well”
At the ceremony, the medical director Dr. Luis Padilla, MD, explained what the new improvements will mean for patients. Along side primary care, Unity has integrated mental health services, specialty care, obstetrical care, and social services for their patients. It’s part of Unity’s mission statement — and pledge to patients — posted everywhere in the building: “We Treat You Well.”
Making Patients Part of a “Health Care Team”
The most compelling speaker at the ceremony was a patient named Darryl who had been coming to Upper Cardozo to for debilitating fibromyalgia, chronic pain and chronic fatigue. Darryl said that his experience transcends the label of patient or client, saying, “I am a person who, here at Unity Health Care, is a part of my health care team.” Darryl underscored how he worked with his primary physician, physician’s assistant, and nurses to learn more about his condition, and various methods to treat it and manage the pain and symptoms. Thanks to the help of Unity’s health care team, Darryl is mobile and not in a wheelchair.
Treating More Patients
Administrative offices, which previously took up an entire floor, were moved downtown and replaced with more exam rooms. The increased capacity also allows providers to see more patients seeking walk-in appointments. In past years, the line for walk-in appointments would frequently wrap around the block. Upper Cardozo also has a dedicated staff of clinicians, including 10 graduates of the National Health Service Corps on staff.
The Value of Community Health Centers to the District of Columbia
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray remarked that the entire Unity Health Care system of health centers helped reduce the need for new hospitals in the District of Columbia. Even though D.C. has the second-highest levels of health coverage for residents in the nation — 94% for adults and 97% for children, according to the Mayor — Unity’s Community Health Centers keep system-wide costs down by providing excellent primary care to thousands of residents who might otherwise end up in emergency rooms. Also attending was Washington’s Ward One Councilmember Jim Graham and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.