The Community First Village on Thursday celebrated the opening of a new on-site clinic that will provide its formerly homeless residents with mental and primary health care services.
The Topfer Family Health Resource Center, which was funded through a donation from the Topfer Family Foundation, will be operated by Austin Travis County Integral Care and CommUnityCare. It is billed as a “first-of-its-kind collaborative effort in Austin” on the site of the 27-acre master planned community for formerly homeless people.
Eighty people are living on the site, but the group in charge of the village expects that it will house 250 people by mid- to late 2017. The group is moving in two to three new residents per week.
About 100 people, including state Sen. Kirk Watson and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the clinic’s opening.
“The impact that this is going to have on men and women that are coming off the streets is beyond huge,” said Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the group in charge of the Community First Village.
Integral Care provides services to people with mental illnesses, substance abuse disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in Travis County. CommUnityCare clinics provide primary care, pediatrics, women’s services, HIV care, behavioral health services, dental care, nutrition counseling and clinical pharmacy services.
The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Integral Care’s hotline number is posted on the clinic door for after-hour emergencies.
Health professionals say the clinic’s ability to provide both mental and primary health care services will go a long way toward addressing the health issues of the formerly homeless people, many of whom suffer from mental illness, substance abuse or developmental disorders on top of physical health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure from their years on the streets.
“By offering both mental and physical health care services at one on-site facility, we’re able to provide more convenient access to care and create an opportunity for improved mental and physical health for Community First residents,” said David Evans, CEO of Austin Travis County Integral Care. “Rather than seeing it as two separate issues we try to see the whole person and try to get healthy outcomes.”
“This is a population that has not had good access to health care but needs it,” said Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. “The fact that there is going to be a clinic right there is really wonderful. It allows the whole person to have access to the care they need.”
Watson said the collaboration between service providers at the Community First Village was a “uniquely Austin” innovation that would address a real need in the community.
“It’s about the person, not just the house,” he said. “Austin is a special place. This community is a wonderful place, and it is going to make a difference in people’s lives.”