New Orleans’ vibrant and historic city streets are always alive with music and celebration, but there is also another side to the Crescent City – a population in need. That is why Odyssey House Louisiana (OHL) launched the Odyssey House Community Health Center (OHCHC). Originally established in 1973, OHL is a nonprofit behavioral health facility focusing primarily on substance abuse treatment. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, there was an overwhelming need for medical and behavioral health services. As the city began to rebuild, OHL focused on helping a traumatized community and operated a makeshift clinic often under challenging conditions. Over the past decade that small clinic has grown into a well-established Community Health Center in the heart of New Orleans with a team of primary care providers as well as behavioral health specialists.
“Our patients typically have complex health and social service needs,” explained Andrew Ward, OHL’s Media and Public Policy Manager. “Virtually all of our patients are living in poverty, many are unemployed, and approximately 10 percent are documented as homeless, and many others are either homeless or living with unstable housing conditions, but it’s difficult to document. Many of our patients are in general poor health when assuming their care, including high rate of uncontrolled diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
OHCHC also serves a large portion of substance abusers in its patient population. At least 20 percent of the patients have sought help with OHL’s drug treatment programs, where the stated mission is “empowering people to conquer addiction.” OHCHC serves this vulnerable and often invisible population, helping addicts and people in recovery tend to their physical health while also receiving treatment for substance abuse issues. In 2015 they saw 4,000 patients and continue to expand their patient operations.
“The overwhelming majority of our patients are uninsured, and thus have no other access to the kind of high-quality behavioral and mental health care that we provide,” said Ward. “OHCHC is also a leading provider of HIV/AIDS testing and prevention services. We have integrated the process of universally testing all patients for HIV, particularly those who are homeless, in the course of routine primary care.”
The health center has also received NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Recognition for using evidence-based, patient-centered processes that focus on highly coordinated care and long-term, participative relationships. How does that work? The way healthcare is supposed to – treating the whole patient with a team approach that is not experienced in silos. Ann Tucker, OHL’s Communications Director explains:
“If a client were to come into our Community Health Center for a primary care checkup, we would also screen that client for other potential issues and refer that individual to other services along our continuum of care, as needed,” she said. “For example, clients are offered free HIV testing and the Community Health Clinic can screen for substance abuse or behavioral health issues. A client may start in our detox program, move from there to short-term substance abuse treatment, and then move directly into long-term housing with intensive outpatient services. After completing the treatment programs, the client may continue to utilize our Community Health Center as his/her medical home for low-cost primary care; this is the ideal long-term, participative relationship. Through this system of coordinated care across all of OHL’s programs, our client’s medical charts can document the full scale of the individual client’s specialized needs, so that the most accurate medical plans and treatment plans can be constructed.”
Do you know a health center with a great story? Let us know and we’ll feature it on this blog.