Among the very first patients at Jericho Road Community Health Center's new facility that opened last week on the city's East Side was a man in a wheelchair who needed more than the medicine he had just been prescribed.
His new doctors had arranged for his meds to be delivered to his home but there was a problem: The man was being evicted the next day.
"If I send him home with medicine and if that's all I can do for him, this person wasn't really going to get good care," Dr. Jewell Henley said.
The patient was connected to one of Jericho Road's care coordinators who was able to find new housing for him.
That's exactly the kind of approach to health care that Jericho Road aims to bring its patients – by finding ways to make sure everyone has access to quality health care, regardless of insurance. That way, they can be empowered to take better care of themselves and their communities, said Henley, who is the medical director of the new facility.
Last Monday, Jericho Road, which started as a small clinic serving refugees and other low-income people on Barton Street on the West Side, opened its third medical facility in Buffalo in a 108-year-old former department store next to the Broadway Market that's been largely vacant for years. Jericho Road also has another small medical center on Genesee Street.
The new health center is at 1021 Broadway, a five-story, 110,000-square-foot building in a community with a marked shortage of doctors. The federal government considers a neighborhood with a primary care physician-to-resident ratio of one to 3,000 a "health professional shortage area." In the five ZIP codes around Jericho Road's new medical center, the ratio is one doctor to 8,600 residents.
The Mosaic 569 Foundation, a charitable foundation founded by Jericho Road board member Mark Herskind of Baillie Lumber, purchased eight interconnected properties, including buildings on Lombard and Clark streets, for $482,000 on behalf of Jericho Road as part of the renovation of the former department store and furniture store complex.
The medical suite is now open on the third floor, where patients can receive primary care, pediatrics and OB-GYN services. Over the next couple of years, the plan is to also open a pharmacy, dental care, community space and fitness center for patients and staff in the building. Jericho also hopes to bring in other organizations, including WNY MRI and other nonprofits. The project with the nonprofits in place has a cost of about $10 million. It has received additional financial help, including a $200,000 grant from the New York State Health Foundation, a $300,000 matching grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation and a $1.95 million loan from M&T Bank.
Like its facility on the West Side, the new health center is more than just a clinic. In addition to doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses, it offers interpreters who also speak Bangali, Burmese, Hindi and Urdu for its nonnative English speakers. Care coordinators help patients with an array of issues, especially with transportation to and from the clinic. There also are counselors who offer behavioral and spiritual aid, all while being respectful of patient's religious backgrounds, Henley said. Jericho Road was founded on Christian principles, she said, but patients of all faiths are welcome.
In the next year, a pharmacy will open on the first floor where patients can pick up their medicine after seeing their doctors. Pharmacists package "medi-packs" for the patients with chronic conditions marked with a drawing of a sun to indicate medicine to be taken in the morning and a bed to signify night time. They also deliver medicine to patients and show them how to take them properly.
Henley described a situation pharmacists encountered a few years ago which the health center continues to use an example of why it's important to make sure patients, many of whom are not native English speakers, understand how to take their meds properly: Doctors at Jericho Road were puzzled by a patient with asthma who said his inhaler wasn't doing anything for him. They asked the patient how he was using it. The patient took it out and demonstrated how he sprayed his cat with it. He misunderstood how to use an inhaler after the doctors said his asthma was triggered by his cat.
The new clinic already is seeing patients, some of them transfers from Jericho Road's other facilities and others who are brand new.
"What we've seen so far is that many people just haven't been to a doctor in years," Henley said. The staff is working hard to reach out to all segments of the East Side to make sure the community knows that Jericho Road is open not just to refugees but to anyone seeking medical care, whether they have insurance or not.
"It's an extremely unique opportunity," Henley said.