New health clinic opening in Avondale Elementary School District thanks to WellCare

The WellCare Community Foundation has donated $230,000 to help open a new Bayless Integrated Healthcare clinic in the Avondale Elementary School District (AESD).

“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to work with such amazing community partners,” AESD Superintendent Dr. Betsy Hargrove said. “We appreciate them coming alongside us and working with us to make sure we are able to offer the very best for our students and our families.”

According to WellCare’s Center for Community Impact Vice President Pamme Taylor, “the WellCare Community Foundation really focuses on activities, programs and services that promote health and well-being along medically underserved communities.”

Taylor said that WellCare chose Avondale because they city was hit hard during the economic recession.

“About 20% of the homes in the city of Avondale went into foreclosure and the influx of a large number of families really took a toll on the number of human services health care systems and infrastructure there. So, we knew we had to do something to help. We had to help this community recover,” she said.

According to the Coalition on Human Needs, roughly one in four children in Maricopa County is living at or below the poverty line, which creates barriers that prevent them from accessing the health care services they need.

In 2017, 83.3 percent of youth with severe depression in Arizona received insufficient treatment.

“I’m very passionate about bringing behavioral health care services to people who typically don’t receive those services,” Kristen Ray, D.BH, LPC, Bayless Integrated Healthcare, said. “One of the reasons we wanted to integrate was really to destigmatize … there’s no wrong door that they can receive treatment, whether they go through their primary care provider or whether they want to go straight to mental health care services.”

According to both health care companies, many Southwest Valley students face social and economic barriers.

Dr. Ray said, “one of the biggest barriers is transportation and so a lot of our families who live below the poverty line have difficulty getting to clinics and especially in Avondale.”

Other barriers include lack of affordable housing and access to nutritious food. To help combat social and economic barriers, Bayless and the Care1st Avondale Resource Center, will collaborate to create a “one-stop hub of community resources conveniently located across the street” from the clinic.

“I believe access to as many resources as possible is important to any community,” Dr. Hargrove said. “I believe it would benefit any community to be able to have such a robust set of resources available right there in [their] backyard.”

“Their design was created to remove social barriers so that they could get the health care that they needed at the same time they had their human needs met. What you’re seeing is [that] as a result of crisis – the economic crisis – and the recovery period, you’re seeing beautiful innovation come out,” Taylor said.

“When kids feel better, both physically and mentally, and those health care needs are being met and they’re in less emotional pain and physical pain … they’re at school more often, so their absentee rates go down, their grades go up, their testing scores increase,” Dr. Ray said. “That allows the kid to really focus on what they need to focus on in school and it sets them up for successful learning.”

They plan on opening the clinic in the next few months. It will be located at the original AESD school building located at 235 W. Western Avenue, Avondale, Arizona, 85323.

Emily Richardson

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