By Sherri Greenberg, Chairperson, Central Health Board of Managers
Professor of Practice, The University of Texas at Austin, LBJ School of Public Affairs
In the midst of an unimaginable public health crisis, our community’s response continues to inspire me. Never have I seen so many people come together with such a singular focus and unified mission to protect and care for their neighbors.
Central Health is Travis County’s publicly funded health care district, and our mission - improving the health of our community by caring for those who need it most - has never been more critical than during this COVID-19 pandemic. Central Health and our affiliates, CommUnityCare Health Centers and Sendero Health Plans, comprise a team of more than 1,200 people committed to keeping our patients and our health care providers safe.
More than 161,000 Travis County residents have no health insurance – and often no doctor. Recent reports in other areas of the United States indicate that people of color, specifically African Americans, are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Therefore, we must continue addressing health and equity disparities in our community, particularly among people of color – in Eastern Travis County. These are the people Central Health is most committed to serving, especially in their times of greatest need.
Since social needs, such as transportation and housing, are just as important as health needs, Central Health is coordinating with Austin/Travis County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to meet the growing challenges of people with low income and without health insurance, no matter their immigration status. This includes aggressively promoting the work of the EOC task forces addressing community services like homelessness, housing, equity, immigration, and food access during the COVID-19 crisis.
Residents need vital, culturally appropriate public health information. The pandemic has forced people to use more online technologies, but we cannot exclude those without internet access. Through robust community engagement and grassroots outreach strategies, we will reach more than 60,000 patients, MAP/MAP BASIC members and people with low income living in ZIP codes with a history of racial inequity. These strategies include mailing information directly to homes, phone calls, and texting.
To assist Travis County residents who have lost jobs and health insurance during this pandemic, our staff provides free screening for multiple health coverage programs, including Central Health’s Medical Access Program (MAP), MAP BASIC, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP). You can call 512-978-8130 to speak with our bilingual staff and learn about health coverage options.
CommUnityCare doctors have been caring for 75% of their patients over the phone to limit potential COVID-19 exposure for patients, staff, and the community, and conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). You can schedule a CommUnityCare medical appointment by calling 512-978-9015.
CommUnityCare is re-opening clinics that had been closed temporarily to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and protect the safety of patients and staff. CommUnityCare’s Hornsby Bend Health Center in Eastern Travis County re-opened Wednesday, April 15, and the Del Valle clinic will open Monday, April 20.
CommUnityCare operates a drive-up COVID-19 testing site in Travis County open to everyone. Located at Hancock Center – 41st Street and IH 35 South – no appointment is needed and the test is free. CommUnityCare is also opening additional drive-up testing sites in Eastern Travis County beginning Thursday, April 16.
The Central Health Board of Managers will continue supporting our health care partners, and we are grateful for the amazing commitment and service of our affiliate CommUnityCare. We could not do any of this without our dedicated, passionate staff, and more than 100 health care partners including Travis County, the City of Austin, and UT Dell Medical School. We want the people Central Health serves, and our entire community, to know we are here for them. As we have for more than 15 years, we are committed to serving as Travis County’s health care safety net to ensure people get care. Especially now.