For a week in August, Federally Qualified Health Centers celebrate National Health Center Week. At Healthcare Network, Collier County’s only Federally Qualified Health Center, there is so much to celebrate all year long.
Healthcare Network is proud to be among America’s 1,400 Community Health Centers. They share the passion of providing quality, comprehensive healthcare services to more than 30 million patients in 14,500 communities annually.
Healthcare Network was founded in 1977 in two small trailers in Immokalee to provide health services to the migrant community. Since then, it has grown to provide primary health care to men, women and children of all ages. Its mission is to help the disenfranchised, underinsured, and uninsured of our communities. Quality services are also available to those with insurance and resources who recognize the quality and comprehensiveness of care available.
While we offer a network of practices throughout Collier County, we continue to meet the needs of agricultural workers. To do so, we collaborate with other groups in the community such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Misión Peniel and others.
Federally Qualified Health Center that Reaches the Community
The pandemic and then Hurricane Ian exposed vulnerabilities reaching migrant communities. As a result, we formed an outreach team to go door-to-door with information, health care and support. This team also works with our Chronic Care Management team and other professionals, providing referrals for healthcare and social support services. In addition, the team plans mini-health fairs, health education events and workshops. The mean also manages a resource line to answer questions from the community. Home visits allow the team to address issues that impact health by connecting families with local resources for physical and mental health, transportation, food and housing assistance.
Federally Qualified Health Centers like Healthcare Network are not ordinary medical clinics. We are also problem-solvers who reach beyond the exam room to care for the whole person.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration designates nearly all of Southwest Florida as a “Medically Underserved Area.” This means that there are too few primary care providers for the growing population. As a result, we are working to improve access to high quality primary care for at-risk populations and minority populations. Access to primary care is critical to prevention, chronic disease management and as an entry point to the health care system.
Working to Bridge Gaps in Care
As nonprofits, Federally Qualified Health Centers like Healthcare Network are designed to act locally and remain agile. We continually work to bridge gaps in care by expanding services to meet our patients’ growing needs.
We are working to provide more hubs, particularly where healthcare services and access are limited, like Ave Maria, and Everglades City. At these hubs, patients can come to one place for all their healthcare needs. Currently, these include Nichols Community Health Center and Marion E. Fetter Center in Immokalee. On the horizon is a new health hub in the Orangetree area of Golden Gate Estates. Construction of the health center is expected to begin in winter 2023.
In the meantime, our mobile units, including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile and the Health & Smiles, provide medical and dental care access to all corners of our county.
Federally Qualified Health Center that Address Staffing Shortages
We are also working to address healthcare staffing shortages throughout Southwest Florida. We recently added fellowship programs in family medicine in collaboration with Lee Health and NCH hospitals and pediatric dental fellowships. These programs are designed to attract physicians committed to a mission-driven practice that directly and comprehensively impacts the health of the most vulnerable and underserved, including our migrant communities.
Recognizing that healthcare needs to be accessible, affordable and comprehensive, our commitment to our community, as Collier County continues to rapidly grow, is to be innovative in the ways we reach patients. With a direct line to our patients, health centers like ours are uniquely positioned to identify immediate needs that impact local health.
About the Author
Jamie Ulmer is the President and CEO of Healthcare Network. He serves on the executive and chair committees for the Florida Association of Community Health Centers and is a member of multiple committees for the National Association of Community Health Centers.