Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Facility Becomes Popular Health Center Grows beyond Expansion

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Facility Becomes Popular Health Center Grows beyond Expansion

Article excerpt

It took years for word to spread about the Northwest Quadrant Community Health Center.

Nearly six years ago, organizers knocked on doors and handed out pamphlets telling people about the nearby health center. Now that message has reached throughout the center's neighborhood and beyond and has quadrupled its number of patients.

The health center, located in a one-story former public health building on Vernon Road, was recently renovated to accommodate the increasing number of patients. Yet less than a year after that improvement, officials say they need a larger facility.

"It needs to be larger to accommodate more programs," said Elizabeth Means, a board member for Northwest Quadrant and vice president for public relations at University Medical Center. "I think the community center itself provides a valuable resource."

If the number of staff members, space and resources increased, Means said, the center could do more to teach residents about health care and diseases.

The center is Jacksonville's only comprehensive, federally funded community health center for people of all ages, Means said.

It is open five days a week and has 10 staff members, including two physicians, and a midwife once a week. The center provides immunizations, pregnancy testing, family planning, social services, mental health services, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, lab work, referral services and general, prenatal and maternity care.

The community center opened in 1993, backed by a $450,000 grant from the Bureau of Health Resources, because of a need to provide health care in an area director Jean Pettis calls underserved. The Northwest Jacksonville facility is surrounded by several houses and three large apartment complexes that are home to many low-income residents.

It is within walking distance for many of its patients and is located near a bus stop, which makes transportation easy.

"It was sort of slow, at first," said the center's board chairwoman, Sarah Fowler. "We had to let the public know we were there."

Center organizers networked with community groups, churches, schools and even knocked on some doors. While canvassing the area, board member Latrece Rowell said she learned some people were so afraid of doctors that they hadn't seen one in years. …

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