Innovative model at former school to address “whole person” needs

LITTLE ROCK – Community Health Centers of Arkansas (CHCA) announced Wednesday that a $650,000 federal grant will be used as seed money to develop an innovative Community Health Center focusing on healthcare, education and a multitude of other needs in the central Little Rock area.

“Finding ways to bridge the gaps with inequalities in the health sphere are constantly on our minds at Community Health Centers of Arkansas,” said LaShannon Spencer, Chief Executive Officer of CHCA. “It’s why we’re developing the Franklin Community Health Complex, a first-of-its-kind endeavor in Little Rock. It is singularly designed to erase disparities that persists, ZIP code by ZIP code.”

The project will invigorate a vacant educational facility, the former Franklin Elementary School in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Little Rock, just south of War Memorial Stadium. The Little Rock School District in 2017 closed the school due to declining enrollment. CHCA bought the facility later that year, and plans for the multi-faceted and detailed project have been ongoing since then.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) earlier Wednesday issued a news release about the New Access Points grants for new Community Health Centers across the country. The list included the grant for Franklin, which was awarded to CHCA and Healthy Connections Inc. of Mena, one of the 11 member Community Health Centers in the CHCA. Healthy Connections will administer the healthcare clinic at Franklin.

“The Franklin Project is really the culmination of everything we’ve done everywhere else in Arkansas,” said Healthy Connections CEO Tony Calandro. “When you look at the patient population that surrounds Franklin, you’re looking at patients who have not been able to access quality, affordable healthcare. We’re excited to be involved and to be part of the solution to fill these health services gaps.”

Healthy Connections plans to offer family medical/primary care and behavior and mental health therapy services at Franklin.

Franklin, located at 1701 S Harrison St., was built in 1949 and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. It encompasses about 70,000 square feet spread over four wings.

Other plans for the facility tackling overall wellness issues include, but aren’t limited to, after school programs, early educational programs, community meeting space, a community computer lab, recreation areas, a neighborhood cafe, a community garden, and job training classes.

Spencer said improving “whole person” well-being is a must to raise the healthcare standing of Arkansans because, other factors of life — called the Social Determinants of Health — are root causes of good or poor health.

Private fund-raising and other funds must supplement the HRSA grants, which are largely limited to healthcare initiatives. If you are interested in becoming involved in the success of the Franklin project, please contact Spencer (info above).

There are 12 Community Health Centers in Arkansas with some 130 branches in nearly every corner of the state.

This is the third item of significant news for Community Health Centers in recent weeks. In July, CHCA announced that centers have embarked on an innovative MAT program (Medication Assisted Treatment) for opioid abuse. Last week, CHCA and UAMS announced a partnership whereby UAMS would provide medical students to shadow physicians at Community Health Centers.

Community Health Centers provide services regardless of ability to pay. Those without insurance are charged on a sliding scale based on their income. Community Health Centers are funded through patient revenue and federal grants. These much-needed grants are scheduled to expire September 30, pending action in Congress.

LaShannon Spencer, Chief Executive Officer, CHCA
501.517.0842, lspencer@chc
Seth Blomeley, Communications and Policy Director, CHCA
Jeffrey Slatton, Business Development Specialist, Healthy Connections Inc.