Central Health branching out into Eastern Travis County

Central Health is a public entity that uses taxpayer dollars to connect Travis County's under-served and under-privileged with healthcare services.

"Because we use property tax dollars, our commitment and obligation is to the public," said Central Health Chief Administrative Officer Larry Wallace. 

As more people move away from Austin's core to Del Valle, Manor and Colony Park, Central Health says health care services are needed in those places.

"Yeah I've got to drive clear into Austin.  Or Bastrop area and I'd prefer if I could get closer to my area because I'd prefer not to drive as far," said Del Valle resident Darlene Boyd. 

On Friday, Central Health announced plans to bring more health care access to the eastern part of the county.

Wallace says that's east of 35 all the way to Manor.

"Our goal over the next 18 months is to create several new points of access and those include Del Valle, Colony Park, Manor, and also with the Community First project which is the homeless community out on Decker Lane and Hogeye Road," Wallace said. 

In Del Valle, the temporary solution is to use the county's existing employee health clinic off FM 973.  The public will be able to visit there 2 to 3 days a week.  something Del Valle resident Darlene Boyd is excited about.

"It does cost gas to go drive over where ever I go...but if they've got it only 10 miles from my house, hey I'm for it," she said.

A permanent structure there is the plan long-term.

"We don't think the solution is always in building new buildings and brick and mortar.  We like to leverage other resources," Wallace said. 

Wallace says the project at Community First, the Mobile Loaves and Fishes homeless community will be a permanent structure.

Wallace says all of this is a way for them to maintain relationships with their patients.

"We don't want them to use the emergency room as their doctor and that's what happens if you don't have services available," Wallace said.  "In our upcoming budget our board has allocated $1.5 million to be used for these projects over the next 12 months." 

Here is the Central Health press release detailing the projects:

(AUSTIN, Texas) – Central Health and a coalition of community partners announced today their plans to increase health care access in Eastern Travis County through a series of short and long-term initiatives over the next several years.

Central Health - the health care district serving Travis County residents who are low-income and uninsured - convened a multidisciplinary team of community-based health care and service providers representing more than a dozen organizations. Called the Eastern Travis County Health and Wellness Collaboration, the coalition’s purpose is to address the challenges faced by residents of Eastern Travis County as they seek needed health services. As more people move to communities such as Del Valle, Manor, and Colony Park, this need is becoming more acute.

“We must design and deliver on services that match the demographic transformations of this region and the needs of patients," said Mike Geeslin, Central Health President and CEO. “Looking forward, our strategies will continue to be adaptive in how we contract with healthcare providers and create infrastructure that best serve low-income and uninsured residents.”

Some of Central Health’s solutions leverage existing assets and could be brought online within weeks – like a health clinic in Del Valle. Other solutions will require more planning and funding decisions to develop essential and permanent health care infrastructure that can sustain Eastern Travis County into the future. Components of the initiative include:

Del Valle. For an interim solution, Central Health and Travis County would use the county’s existing employee health clinic off FM 973 — adjacent to the county’s correctional facility — for health care services for the general public, two to three days a week. Central Health is planning for a permanent health facility in the future, which the county is building on the same property. Further, the UT School of Nursing is exploring the possibility of expanding services in Del Valle. While the nursing school operates the UT Children’s Wellness Clinic in Del Valle, adults aren’t seen at that location. The school recently signed a new contract with the Community Care Collaborative, Central Health’s partnership with Seton Healthcare Family, to provide services to adults at its Austin clinic. Del Valle ISD also recommends placing an adult health clinic (modular building) at Creedmoor Elementary School.

“As a community member, I know there is so much need for health care services in Del Valle and we’re happy solutions are on the way,” said Alice Vallejo, Del Valle resident. “We (the community) are glad our voices are being heard and Central Health and others are taking action - we’ve been left out of the conversation for too many years.”

Colony Park. Austin Independent School District (AISD) has offered a portable building at Overton Elementary School for the Northeast Health Resource Center, which will provide non-clinical services including health screenings, eligibility assessments for the Medical Access Program (MAP), referrals, and other services. It’s next door to the Turner-Roberts Recreation Center, where a CommUnityCare mobile clinic provides services one day a month. CommUnityCare wants to expand mobile clinic services to include more days. As part of the City of Austin’s development and revitalization plans for a city-owned tract in this Far East Side neighborhood, Central Health is working with the City to open a permanent health care clinic, which is called for in the recently completed Colony Park Master Plan. Barbara Scott represents the Colony Park Neighborhood Association, which is part of the Eastern Travis County Health and Wellness Collaboration. “The Colony Park and Lakeside communities have worked tirelessly to help bring these initiatives to fruition,” Scott said. “Our families will finally have the long-denied resources that other communities in Austin have had access to.”

Community First! Village. Just south of Colony Park, Mobile Loaves and Fishes operates an innovative community for those who have experienced homelessness. Founder Alan Graham has offered to assist with construction of a health center modeled (on a smaller scale) after Central Health’s successful Southeast Health & Wellness Center in the Montopolis neighborhood. With a targeted opening date of December 2018, the facility would serve both those transitioning from homelessness as well other Eastern Crescent residents.

Manor. Central Health is exploring options for upgrading or replacing the existing CommUnityCare clinic in Manor. This initiative is in the early planning stages. “As CommUnityCare continues to explore opportunities to expand its services throughout the Eastern Travis County area, we have identified the Manor community as a high priority for enhanced primary care medical services,” said Jaeson Fournier, CEO of CommUnityCare. “We look forward to our continued dialogue with Central Health and other community partners on evaluating options that best meet the growing needs of Manor and the surrounding communities.”

Central Health has earmarked $1.5 million in FY 18 to support health care initiatives for Eastern Travis County.

“Central Health’s mission is to provide access to care and healthy lives, but we can’t do it alone,” said Larry Wallace, Central Health Chief Administrative Officer and leader of the Eastern Travis County Health & Wellness Collaboration. “We look forward to opportunities to expand our network of partnerships to ensure that our community’s growing population has prompt and effective access to the care people need to live well.”