At These Health Centers, a Physical Comes With Housing Resources

California-based CDFI is helping community health centers take a more holistic approach to what their patients need, from substance abuse resources to workforce development.

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The barriers that low-income individuals, people from underrepresented groups, and those without health insurance face when it comes to accessing healthcare have been well documented. For decades, CDFI Capital Impact Partners (CIP) has been working to remove these roadblocks by helping community health centers evolve to meet a broader set of needs.

About one in 15 people rely on community health centers for medical, oral, mental health and substance abuse services, according to CIP. These organizations serve a critical need in helping low-income and uninsured individuals and families live healthier lives.

“We focus on how to create dignity and choice for our most vulnerable community members who by age, economic status and ability have little or no access to choices of care,” says Candace Robinson, the CDFI’s director of healthy communities.

As Medicaid and other public funds that support health become more limited, CIP strives to expand the number of community health providers that can help build trust in the healthcare system, especially among communities that have experienced systemic racism in the access and delivery of care, Robinson says.

“With the advance of community-based care and the acknowledgment of social determinants of health, we also want to advance the growth of small business entrepreneurs — especially in BIPOC communities — to develop healthcare services and business within the communities that reflect their culture and values,” she adds.

Since CIP was founded 40 years ago, the CDFI has provided more than $980 million to more than 560 health centers across the country, reaching 3.4 million patients, says Kelly Bougere, senior manager of loan operations for the eastern region and national healthcare. Initially, the CDFI provided debt financing to community health centers to expand their facilities and stabilize their operations, including construction, acquisition, working capital, and permanent loans.

That role has shifted to help community health centers “reimagine their role in their communities,” Bougere says. As a result, many community health center borrowers have expanded their operations or developed partnerships to offer services beyond healthcare, like housing, substance abuse treatment, workforce development, and long-term support for aging individuals.

OLE Health in northern California is one organization that CIP has supported through its California Primary Care Association Ventures loan program. OLE Health works with low-income, uninsured, and Spanish-speaking agricultural workers and others to provide health fairs, health screenings during the evenings so patients don’t have to take off work, and other services.

Overall, CIP’s programs have created new opportunities for health organizations to partner with local residents, nonprofits, and other groups to fully understand the gaps, challenges, and opportunities to create a more efficient, sustainable health delivery system for low-income individuals, Robinson says.

In the coming months, Bougere says the CDFI is “doubling down” on its commitment to addressing social determinants of health, such as safe housing, discrimination, access to education and healthcare, job opportunities, and more. That includes supporting organizations and businesses providing healthcare and addressing the other aspects that impact health outcomes.

“We want to explore how through a combination of capacity and capital we can help communities both define desired health outcomes and support their development of the community infrastructure needed to achieve lasting outcomes,” Robinson says.

The organizations that CIP funds go beyond providing healthcare, Bougere says, they are “anchors and safe spaces in their communities.” The organizations connect patients with other needed services like housing, workforce development, education, aging supports and services, COVID testing and vaccines, and more.

“When I visit a project we’ve financed, I’m always so amazed by the connection you feel between the community, the patients, and the people there to serve them,” she says. “It’s personally meaningful to me because accessible healthcare underscores a person and community’s opportunity to reach their full potential and aspirations.”

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This story is part of our series, CDFI Futures, which explores the community development finance industry through the lenses of equity, public policy and inclusive community development. The series is generously supported by Partners for the Common Good. Sign up for PCG’s CapNexus newsletter at capnexus.org.

Erica Sweeney is a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, AR. She covers health, wellness, business and many other topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Good Housekeeping, HuffPost, Parade, Money, Insider and more.

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Tags: healthcarecdfi futureshealth access

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