In a city that can seem long on new condos and restaurants but short on basic services, CrescentCare Health & Wellness Center (3308 Tulane Ave., 504-207-2273; www.crescentcarehealth.org) is bridging the gap.
The center, which opened last fall, offers primary care, behavioral health, pediatrics, women's health care and dental services to insured and uninsured patients. In doing so, the center takes up a public health mission that has been challenged since the shuttering of Charity Hospital and other providers.
"We're excited to offer the services in the city that are much needed after Hurricane Katrina," says CrescentCare Director of Development Rodney Thoulion. "People have been clamoring for services and using the emergency rooms as their service provider. We want people to have a place to come to and call [their] primary health care home."
One of the center's most valuable features is its ability to provide care regardless of insurance or ability to pay. The center offers sliding scale fees, payment plans and assistance in enrolling in the insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.
"[Enrolling] is such a tedious process; anyone who has tried to do it online can tell you what hell it is," Thoulion says. "To have someone at CrescentCare who can walk you through the process makes things a whole lot easier."
The center operates in conjunction with the NO/AIDS Task Force, a local nonprofit that provides resources for people affected by AIDS and HIV. The Task Force realized the need for the facility when members noticed caregivers and family members of HIV and AIDS patients didn't have access to the same level of care as the patients. In 2013, the organization conducted an assessment in the community and applied to create a federally qualified health care center (a designation under which the center receives funding from the government for equipment and operations).
The government initially rejected the application, but reconsidered after the Affordable Care Act created a new demand in the community for basic health care providers. In keeping with government requirements, the center opened 120 days after its funding was approved. The Tulane Avenue location initially administered primary care services and now offers a full menu, including case management and the public STD testing that formerly was offered by LSU Health. The center recently added dental services, which are in high demand in the greater New Orleans area.
Thoulion says visitors may be surprised by what is offered at the public healthcare facility — she shies away from the term "clinic."
"The word 'clinic' has such a negative connotation; people think of a huge room with about 50 chairs filled with people waiting to see a doctor," he says. "[Here] the doctor's office is very state-of-the-art and nice-looking, and it's a place where you would want to come. ... [some patients] think of long waits and impersonal care, and that's not what we're known for here."