ST. LOUIS, April 16 One year after two clinics serving Hispanic immigrants in the St. Louis region closed their doors, Casa de Salud, a new health and wellness center, celebrates its grand opening on April 16 with speeches, food and a blessing of its building.
"If we can offer new immigrants a pathway to good health, we'll help our entire community be stronger and more vibrant," said Bob Fox, who chairs Casa de Salud's board of directors.
"A culturally diverse and healthy workforce is critical if we are to attract new businesses to the St. Louis region. We see Casa de Salud, which means 'house of health,' as a bridge to good health and regional prosperity."
Fox, who also is founder and chief executive officer for NewSpace Inc. and a member of Saint Louis University's board of trustees, spearheaded the drive for Casa last year, after La Clinica and Accion Social Comunitaria closed. He asked Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., if SLU would sponsor a new wellness service for the Latino community, and Biondi embraced the opportunity to take a leadership role.
"When I first talked with Bob Fox about the need for this kind of facility, I immediately knew this was something that Saint Louis University needed to be part of. This initiative fits with our social justice mission of reaching out to help a seldom or never-served portion of our community," Biondi said.
"We care about our neighbors and our community, and we especially care about those in need. Casa de Salud fits into everything that SLU is about and provides students, faculty and staff with volunteer opportunities."
Saint Louis University converted a building at the corner of Compton and Chouteau avenues into a health care center, which it rents to Casa de Salud for $1 a year.
Natural light floods the 3,000-square-foot facility, and brightly painted walls and artistic murals make Casa de Salud a warm and welcoming space. With a large meeting area, two large medical exam rooms, a laboratory, consultation rooms and office space, the facility has room to grow.
A board and advisory board of members who understand the Hispanic community in St. Louis and who have a background in health care make the decisions that shape Casa de Salud's operations.
Casa is staffed by five paid employees, dozens of undergraduate and graduate volunteers from Saint Louis University and Washington University, as well as more than 100 volunteer physicians, nurses and community members.
"It's a collaboration by members of the whole community," Fox said.
The physicians offer what Fox calls "basic episodic care" -- such as treating a sore throat or other minor injury or illness. The goal is not only to solve the immediate problem but also to help the patient find a medical home in one of myriad health care services already available in the community. Those treated at Casa de Salud are referred to other existing health care institutions that are designed to provide ongoing medical care.
"We don't want to be a competitor to those services. We want to be a feeder or gateway into the health care system," Fox said.
Casa de Salud assigns each patient a "navigator," who teaches new immigrants how to use the complicated health care system. Navigators help fill out forms, provide translation services and may even accompany the patient to the first appointment at a new facility, such as a federally qualified health center.
"This approach is different from what had been offered previously, and makes Casa de Salud a critical and permanent link in the overall health care system of our region," Fox said. "Our goal is to knock down the barriers that prevent new immigrants from accessing health care."
Casa de Salud delivers high quality basic health and wellness services for uninsured and underinsured new immigrants, focusing on those who encounter barriers to accessing other sources of care. For information, visit http://www.casadesaludstl.org .
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SOURCE Saint Louis University