While training the next generation of nursing professionals, the Florida Atlantic University Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing’s Community Health Center, in West Palm Beach, provides comprehensive primary care, including mental health treatment, to underserved adults and children in the area.
“People like that it’s holistic, and we take the time with whatever problems they are dealing with,” said Eugenia Millender, PhD, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC, CDE, director of the center. “We take time to educate and empower the client and family.”
Six nurse practitioners and three mental health professionals care for the patients. Two of the NPs also serve as FAU faculty, and the others are employed at the center. Two part-time diabetes educators work at the center, including Jessica Sodek, MSN, RN, CDE, a diabetes educator and patient care coordinator at the center and a recent graduate from the FAU NP program.
“I love how comprehensive it is,” Sodek said.
Services include nutritional counseling, preventive health, laboratory work, chronic disease management and case management. Patients needing other services receive referrals to the appropriate specialty. The center aims to provide quality and culturally sensitive care to a diverse population. Most patients speak English as a second language.
“The level of care is the ideal,” Sodek said. “They get all these services. That’s what drives me to work there. It’s very unique.”
All levels of FAU nursing students rotate through the center. They learn not only ways to provide care but also to meet the multifaceted needs of an underserved population. Undergraduates help with intake, patient education and interpretation, Millender said. The students also provide cardiovascular and diabetes outreach to the community. NP students treat patients under the supervision of other NPs, who work with a collaborating physician, Lewis Green, MD.
Sodek began at the center as an FAU student. “We can practice the nursing model,” said Sodek. Nursing models differ from medical models in that the focus is on the entire person and how well the patient functions compared to simply diagnosis, treatment and care of the disease.
The center began in 2012 as a center for diabetes care and has transitioned into primary care, including well-woman exams, pap smears and mammograms. It remains certified by the American Diabetes Association to provide evidence-based diabetes education.
Nurses realized most patients suffered from multiple comorbidities, including mental health issues, that also needed attention. “We were able to put a team together to provide better service for our clients,” Millender said.
Patient statistics and clinic details
Since opening as a comprehensive health center in January 2014, the center has completed more than 4,000 visits. Most of the patients have diabetes or hypertension. Adults comprise most of the medical care, but children make up a large portion of the behavioral health visits. Seventy percent of patients are uninsured or underinsured. Different clinics in the area refer difficult-to-manage-patients to the center, and the center has contracts to provide care for certain populations.
The center offers services on a sliding fee scale and accepts most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. High deductibles challenge many of the center’s patients, making it difficult for them to receive care elsewhere.
The center also has received grant funding, including a $1.5 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enhance clinical care and to foster interprofessional training; a $213,000 grant from the Florida Office of Minority Health to provide diabetes and cardiovascular screenings in the county; and a $205,000 grant from Quantum Foundation. The center strives to become more self-sufficient. The center is open weekdays, and every other Saturday.
[accordion title=”FAU health center joins behavioral health collaborative” load=”hide”]The Florida Atlantic University Community Health Center teamed up with four other entities to form the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative of Palm Beach County to provide care to youngsters with mental health issues, including school-related concerns, substance abuse and developmental conditions.
The participants all individually serve similar populations in the community and had been sharing information with each other about their respective programs. When the county released the grant opportunity, the five entities decided to go forward with it.
The collaborative received up to $736,896 in funding in October from Palm Beach County, Community Services Department, Financially Assisted Agencies for a pilot program and has treated about 300 patients.
Collaborative partners and service providers each meet monthly and each provides different services.
“It’s going very, very well; what the collaborative is all about is improving access to quality care for kids struggling with behavioral health issues,” said Amy Simpson, executive director of Boys Town South Florida, the lead agency, which provides care coordination. “With the county funding, we’ve been able to get kids into services much more quickly than in the traditional ways.”
Historically, children had to wait until their escalating behaviors become serious enough to obtain services, sometimes resulting in an emergency department visit, Simpson said. Some children had received prior services, including involuntary admissions to inpatient care. [/accordion]