By: Maria Gomez
In commemoration of National Health Center Week, Mary’s Center is excited to celebrate being “Rooted in Communities,” a National Association of Community Health Centers’ (NACHC) campaign which emphasizes the fact that plants, people, and communities, are not so different from one, we all require basic resources to grow.
This year’s theme made us reflect on how more than thirty years ago, we put down roots in Washington DC to provide prenatal care. Over the years, our participants, staff, Board of Directors, volunteers, and donors have provided us guidance and support. With this support, we have been able to grow, providing more comprehensive services as we branched out into different neighborhoods, all the while maintaining an ever-increasing focus on quality.
Nobody would argue with the fact that plants need adequate nutrients and water to grow and will have a short survival time without these elements. Humans are more complex. The impact of the lack of resources on us takes much longer to manifest; yet most of us would agree that the impact of our loss is much greater.
Mary’s Center’s Social Change Model is built to provide the basic resources that everyone needs to grow. We know that there are many social determinants of health that go beyond the care provided in an exam room, for instance, having a safe place to live, enough to eat on a regular basis, access to reliable transportation, supportive family and friends, or adequate language skills. Through our Model, we address these needs and many more to deliver integrated healthcare, education, and social support to our participants, putting them on the path to good health, stability, and economic independence.
There are many concrete ways we have instituted our Model to grow Mary’s Center’s impact. We know that if parents are not learning and moving up the economic ladder, their children are starting life at a disadvantage. Because of this, for 28 years, we have partnered with a two-generational Charter School called Briya where parents and toddlers are able to learn together. When we noticed that our participants were not filling perscriptions because they were too expensive or they did not have reliable transportation, we built a pharmacy. When we realized that children and teens weren’t getting the support they needed, we integrated our behavioral health services in schools and established an after-school program for teens. When we saw how difficult it was for families to access our services, we created Home Visiting and Telemedicine programs to assist participants at home in coordinating their healthcare needs, recovery process, and overall wellness.
With our programs, Mary’s Center sows a variety of hardy seeds from which resilient community’s flourish extraordinarily well, positively changing the trajectory of future generations.
With our growth, we have created our own ecosystem throughout the Washington DC region, a complex network where diverse individuals can access the services they need in one place.
Our goal is to share our model with the more than 1,400 community health centers in the country to create thriving ecosystems where doing our P.A.R.T.—that is being participant-centered, accountable, respectful and team-oriented—are the values we practice every day.