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CommUnityCare Health Centers Recognized as “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” by Human Rights Campaign Foundation 

CommUnityCare Health Centers proudly announces its recognition as an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC). The designation was awarded in the 16th annual Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), released this week. A record 1,065 healthcare organizations participated in the 2024 HEI survey and scoring process, with 462 receiving the prestigious “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” distinction. 

“We are honored to receive the ‘LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer’ designation from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation,” said Jaeson Fournier, President and CEO of CommUnityCare Health Centers. “At CommUnityCare, we are dedicated to providing inclusive healthcare services to all members of the LGBTQ+ community. This recognition reaffirms our commitment to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ patients and their loved ones. As we celebrate this achievement, we remain steadfast in our mission to eliminate disparities and ensure equitable access to healthcare for the communities we serve.” 

CommUnityCare Health Centers has long been a champion for individuals who have historically lacked access to a medical home by fostering inclusive health spaces tailored to the needs of the diverse communities served in Central Texas. During its HEI journey, CommUnityCare thoroughly reviewed and revised policies, procedures, and practices related to both LGBTQ+ patients and staff. 

To ensure that every aspect of the care experience is inclusive and mindful of the unique health challenges of LGBTQ+ community members, CommUnityCare formalized practices around demographic data collection, including gender identity and sexual orientation. This allows for accurate assessment of health disparities and ensures that patients receive a positive, affirming experience with healthcare providers who respect their preferred name and pronouns. 

As a 2024 Top Workplace USA awardee, CommUnityCare Health Centers remains committed to cultivating a safe and inviting workplace. The organization reviewed and revised its HR-related policies, including benefits, leave, and workplace safety. Additionally, CommUnityCare created a comprehensive guide for employees seeking support during their gender-affirming journey, ensuring company policies are cognizant of the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ employees and their loved ones. 

This recognition by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation solidifies CommUnityCare Health Centers’ dedication to providing equitable healthcare services and creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ patients and staff. The organization remains focused on delivering fully inclusive care and eliminating disparities in the communities it serves. 

  

About CommUnityCare Health Centers 

Central Texas Community Health Centers, dba CommUnityCare Health Centers is a 501.c.3 tax-exempt charitable corporation operating a network of twenty-eight federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in Central Texas. Our mission is to strengthen the health and well-being of the communities we serve. CommUnityCare Health Center services are available regardless of insurance status or household income. For more information visit communitycaretx.org. 

  

About the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 

The Healthcare Equality Index is an annual survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to evaluate and recognize healthcare facilities that demonstrate a commitment to equitable and inclusive care for LGBTQ+ patients and staff. For more information, visit hrc.org/resources/healthcare-equality-index. 

Celebrating Nurses’ Week: Honoring the Pillars of Healthcare

Each year from May 6th to May 12th, we observe Nurses’ Week, a time dedicated to recognizing the invaluable contributions of nurses across the nation. The theme chosen by the American Nurses Association for 2024, “Nurses Make the Difference,” aptly highlights the critical role nurses play in enhancing our lives through various capacities.
 
At CommUnityCare Health Centers, this theme resonates profoundly as it reflects the broad spectrum of essential services our nurses provide. Their roles extend beyond traditional care to include health promotion, education, disease prevention, emergency response, and advocacy for health equity—particularly for vulnerable populations.
 
This year is especially significant as it marks the 22nd consecutive year that nurses have been named the most honest and ethical professionals in the Gallup poll. Such recognition underscores the trust and respect that nurses command in our society.
 
Nurses’ Week also provides an opportunity to celebrate the historical achievements within the nursing profession. One notable figure is Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, a trailblazer who became the first Black female general and the first Black chief of the United States Army Nurse Corps. Despite encountering racial barriers in the 1940s, she pursued her passion for nursing and later made significant contributions to the field, including her role as the director of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and her impactful work at George Mason University, where she helped establish the Center for Health Policy, Research, and Ethics.
 
Brigadier General Johnson-Brown’s legacy continued beyond her passing in 2011, with the U.S. House of Representatives honoring her with a Joint Resolution for her dedication to the nursing profession and the U.S. Army.
 
As we celebrate Nurses’ Week, let us extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the nurses at CommUnityCare, whose daily commitment and dedication reflect why they remain the most trusted professionals. To my colleagues, I urge you to take a moment this week to express your appreciation for the nurses’ tireless efforts in advancing care and services for our organization and community. Their dedication not only supports the health of individuals but also strengthens the entire healthcare system, proving that indeed, “Nurses Make the Difference.”

Opioid Overdose Surge in Austin: Safety Tips and Resources

In the last few days, Austin has faced an alarming spike in opioid overdoses, with more than 50 cases reported across the area, including eight deaths. This surge has prompted a staggering 1000% increase in overdose emergency calls in one day. Early investigations point to the presence of high potency synthetic opioids (HPSOs), such as fentanyl, in substances being sold illegally as benzodiazepines like Valium, Klonopin and Xanax. Additionally, there are concerns about HPSO contamination of synthetic cannabinoids (“K2 or Spice”) and stimulants like amphetamines, cocaine, and methamphetamine. 

Whether you or someone you know is using these substances, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of overdose prevention and know where to find resources for assistance. 

“While this surge has thus far been limited to adults, it is important for families and communities to talk across all age groups about ways to stay safe. In this environment, experimentation can be deadly,” said Dr. Nicholas Yagoda, Chief Medical Officer for CommUnityCare. “The victims this week span all demographics – age, housing status, gender, race, ethnicity, and geography. Our entire community is at risk.” 

Here are some essential tips to help keep yourself and others safe:

  1. Don’t Use Alone: If possible, avoid using substances alone. Having someone with you can provide crucial support in case of an overdose. Consider reaching out to the Overdose Prevention Hotline at 1-800-972-0590 or using the Brave App for additional assistance.
  2. Start Low, Go Slow: When using substances, start with a small dose and gradually increase if necessary. This can help reduce the risk of overdose.
  3. Stagger Doses: If you’re using with a friend, consider staggering your doses. This means taking turns and giving each other time between doses to monitor for any adverse reactions.
  4. Avoid Mixing with Other Downers: Mixing substances like opioids with alcohol or other depressants can increase the risk of overdose. Stick to one substance at a time and avoid combining them.
  5. Be Cautious After a Break: If you haven’t used substances for a few days or more, be extra careful when starting again. Your tolerance may have decreased, increasing the risk of overdose.
  6. Use Fentanyl Test Strips: These strips can help identify the presence of fentanyl in substances, allowing you to make informed decisions about use.
  7. Carry Naloxone: Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. Make sure to always carry it with you and learn how to use it effectively.
  8. Access Naloxone: Naloxone is available for free at Narcan in Case of Emergency (NICE) vending machines located at various locations across Austin. Additionally, with a MAP card, you can obtain naloxone for free at any HEB or CommUnityCare pharmacy in Travis County.
  9. Seek Help: If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, don’t hesitate to seek help. The CommUnityCare Addiction Medicine Clinic is available to provide support and assistance. You can call them at 512-978-9401 or visit the Southeast Health and Wellness Center during walk-in hours from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m., Monday through Friday.

In these challenging times, it’s important for us to come together as a community and support each other. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, we can help prevent overdoses and save lives. Remember, your safety and well-being are our top priorities. 

Stay safe, Austin. 

Black History Month: Celebrating Black Men’s Health Clinic 

The partnership between CommUnityCare Health Centers and Black Men’s Health Clinic (BMHC) was birthed in 2022, out of a mutual commitment to increase access to healthcare in a setting that best meets the needs of men of color. Since the partnership was established, BMHC and CommUnityCare Health Centers have diligently worked to fulfill the promise to the community to create culturally appropriate pathways to health care to address long-standing health disparities plaguing Black Men and all men of color. 

“At CommUnityCare Health Centers, our mission is to serve and uplift communities of color, directly confronting institutional biases and racism,” said Jaeson Fournier, President and CEO. “In 2023, 86.2% of our patients identified as racial or ethnic minorities, underscoring our commitment to tackling health inequities head-on.”  

Fournier further emphasized the importance of strategic partnerships, particularly highlighting the collaboration with the Black Men’s Health Clinic (BMHC). “This partnership is vital to our efforts in achieving health equity. It enables us to address the specific health disparities faced by men of color, ensuring they receive the targeted care they need. Our work with the BMHC is a clear example of our commitment to fostering a healthcare system that is equitable and inclusive for all and our commitment to working with partners that share this commitment, like the BMHC.” 

In just short of two years, effective, unique outreach strategies have been developed to connect with Black men where they live, work, play and pray.  

“This strategy of community outreach and engagement bridges collaboration among churches, schools, partners, nonprofits, hospitals, primary and secondary educational institutions, and other advocacy organizations,” said Larry Wallace Sr., Founder of Black Men’s Health Clinic.  “This approach has proven to be effective in reaching our targeted population.” 

CommUnityCare Health Centers aligns with BMHC in the work to address health equity concerns by raising awareness of existing inequities in the health care system. Wallace Sr. shares that these inequities can be triggered by prejudice, institutional racism, or unintentional cultural differences that do not cultivate cultural sensitivity.  

“The funding from Central Health and the partnership with CommUnityCare Health Centers is invaluable,” added Wallace Sr.  “Their support helps us provide critical clinical services including primary care and mental health for our targeted population. CommUnityCare leadership has exemplified what it means to be culturally sensitive, for the greater good of our entire community, demonstrated through their support of Black Men’s Health Clinic. We are grateful for this priceless partnership.” 

Black Men’s Health Clinic Recognition 

As a result of the recent work, BMHC has received several meaningful recognitions, including a proposition from the Mayor and City of Austin during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and was named and featured as the Community Partner of the Month by CBS Austin-Telemundo in February of this year.  

A message from Black Men’s Health Clinic: As we move forward, BMHC remains committed to reversing long-standing and traditional practices and systems which perpetuate physical, emotional, and psychological distress, and negatively impacts life expectancy and the quality of life for Black men, men of color, their immediate families, and those with extenuating circumstances. Black Men’s Health Clinic serves as a beacon of hope and restoration for all men of color, fostering “Care You Can Trust”.   

2024 FEATURED VIDEOS 

BMHC Signature Video and Testimonials 

SUBSCRIBE to BMHC’s Weekly Newsletter on the website: blackmenshealthclinic.org 

CONNECT with BMHC on Social Media 

 

 

 

CommUnityCare Health Centers Working to Change the Lives of Patients Experiencing Homelessness 

It’s Friday morning, Monick Hamlin is trailed down the hall at Southeast Health and Wellness Clinic by her colleagues Dr. Mike Stefanowicz and Esther Verges. All three load up the CommUnityCare Street Medicine van with their work gear, medical supplies, and other basic essentials to start their day helping those experiencing homelessness in Austin.  

“The van is our office and clinic, all in one,” joked Hamlin, a Medical Assistant and Community Health Worker for the CommUnityCare Street Medicine Team. 

The first stop is a parking lot in downtown Austin, where the team encounters an older gentleman experiencing a new cough and shoulder pain. This is only the first of many stops throughout the day to help anyone facing barriers and unable to access healthcare at one of the 28 CommUnityCare Health Centers across Travis and Williamson County.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people experiencing homelessness often face higher rates of poor health outcomes than people with housing.

“You and I are very capable of driving our cars, going to our appointments, picking up our prescriptions because we have the capabilities to do that. Our friends and neighbors out here on the streets don’t have that luxury. So, what we have been able to do is meet our patients where they are at,” added Hamlin. “For those living on the street, it’s an everyday struggle. It’s a struggle from addiction, mental health and lack of support. Anywhere we can fill the gaps is what we try to do.” 

In 2022, CommUnityCare Health Centers served 2,920 homeless patients, that is according to the Health Center Program Uniform Data System (UDS) Data Overview. Preliminary UDS data shows CommUnityCare Health Centers exponentially increased that number serving a total number of 4,765 homeless patients in 2023. 

The CommUnityCare Street Medicine Team is just one of the teams that make up the Health Care for the Homeless continuum of care service line. The Street Medicine Team provides primary health care services to unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, wherever they are. The team visits areas across North, East, Central and South Austin throughout the week to provide services. 

Across downtown Austin, the CommUnityCare Mobile Health team has set up a healthcare base at Sunrise Community Church located along Menchaca Road. The CommUnityCare Mobile Health Team offers health care services in on-site community locations for individuals who are or have experienced homelessness. This is done in partnership with community-based organizations by setting up a temporary clinic in their location. 

“I think the regularity of Sunrise and CommUnityCare together has been what has made this work. Them [patients] knowing there is going to be someone, having the assurance that someone is going to be here is what works. When you work in homeless services predictability and regularity is one of the most important things you can bring to the table,” said Mark Hilbelink, Sunrise Community Church Homeless Navigation Center Executive Director. “In the chaotic life of someone experiencing homelessness, it creates a stable foundation for them to start working on some of things they need to work on.”

Sitting in the pews of Sunrise Community Church and waiting to see his CommUnityCare healthcare provider is Roy Miller an Austin unsheltered resident, and a patient at CommUnityCare Health Centers who is experiencing homelessness. 

“Every day I look up and think, alright, I’m going to be okay. Whereas at one point I thought, I guess this is where it ends,” said Miller. “These services have blessed me beyond belief.” 

Miller describes an easy life growing up, born into a wealthy Texas family, living out his dream of being a rodeo cowboy for 20 years, going to school for theatre, and the stability of a trust fund.  

“I’m no longer trust fund Roy,” he says. “I would use [drugs], go to treatment centers and I did this for years. Until one day, I became homeless, and I didn’t know what to do. I’m slowly working my way out of this.” 

“Healthcare is a human right,” said Regina Evidente, Nurse Practitioner for the CommUnityCare Mobile Health Team. “We want to be able to provide them with a space where they feel safe and not judged. I tell patients all the time we’re here to support them in however that looks for them.” 

Also, part of the healthcare for the homeless services are the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) Clinic, the Care Connections Clinic, and the mobile, medical, and mental health (M3) team.  

The ARCH Clinic provides primary medical care to people experiencing homelessness. CommUnityCare services are located inside the ARCH Shelter. The CommUnityCare Care Connections Clinic is where patients experiencing homelessness are encouraged to access services directly at this site without a referral.

What Women Can Do to Reduce Their Risk From Heart Disease

This article was originally published by CNN. 
 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women — for about 1 in 5 women — in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 60 million American women are living with some form of heart disease, yet just over half (56%) are aware that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

What are the types of heart disease that women should be aware of? Does heart disease affect women differently than it affects men? What are symptoms that may signify cardiac problems? And what should women do in order to improve their cardiac health?

To guide us through these questions, I spoke with CNN wellness expert Dr. Leana Wen. Wen is an emergency physician and adjunct associate professor at George Washington University. She previously served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.

 

CNN: What are the types of heart disease that women should be aware of?

Dr. Leana Wen: Heart disease is an umbrella term that encompasses several cardiovascular conditions.

Coronary artery disease is the most common kind of heart disease. This occurs when the arteries in the heart are narrowed or become blocked by plaques made of cholesterol deposits. Coronary artery disease and vascular disease, or disease in blood vessels, are the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. Risk factors for coronary artery disease include medical problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes; obesity; and smoking.

Another type of heart disease is heart rhythm abnormalities. Atrial fibrillation, for instance, occurs when the heart beats irregularly. This can lead to blood clots and complications like stroke and heart failure.

Heart failure itself is another form of heart disease. This occurs when the heart is damaged or weakened in some way. Causes of heart failure include heart attacks; chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and excessive alcohol use; and some viral or bacterial infections.

There are also abnormalities with the structure of the heart itself, for example, if there are defects with the valves in the heart or a hole in the wall of the heart. Some of these are congenital, meaning they are there at birth; or they could develop over time due to infection, disease or other factors.

CNN: Does heart disease affect women differently than it affects men? 

Wen: In some ways, yes. This begins at birth, because the size and structure of the heart is different in men and women, with women generally having smaller hearts and blood vessels compared with men. Studies have shown that women have a higher likelihood of developing heart disease in the smaller arteries of their heart. This is harder to diagnose compared with problems with the larger arteries and contributes in part to the higher rates of missed diagnoses in women.

Furthermore, there are hormonal changes, such as changes in estrogen levels, that occur in women during their lifetime that may also affect their risk of coronary artery disease. And women are more likely than men to have certain conditions that increase their risk of heart conditions, including anemia and endometriosis.

Heart disease is the top killer of women in the United States.

CNN: Are there cardiac problems that occur specifically during pregnancy?

Wen: There are medical conditions that can manifest during pregnancy that could influence heart health both while the patient is pregnant and later in life. These include common conditions such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, and less common but very serious problems such as enlarged heart resulting in heart failure.

There may also be preexisting heart conditions that don’t manifest until the body is stressed during pregnancy and labor and delivery. For instance, someone may have had long-standing blood pressure but not known it until pregnancy. Women of child-bearing age need to be aware of these conditions and pay attention to heart health before, during and after delivery.

CNN: What are symptoms that mean women should seek prompt urgent medical attention? 

Wen: The classic symptoms of heart attack are chest pain, pain in the jaw and neck extending to left arm, shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded and nausea. These symptoms may not all be there, or there may be variations. For instance, someone may not say they have chest pain, but they could be having a heavy sensation or dull ache in their chest. They could have pain in their upper abdomen, back or shoulders.

Women are more likely than men to have vague, non-classic symptoms, including fatigue, nausea, and upper abdomen discomfort. Multiple studies have reported that women are misdiagnosed more than men; their symptoms of heart attack end up being attributed to heartburn or even psychiatric manifestations. In one study, nearly half of women didn’t have the classic signs of heart attack.

CNN: What about other heart problems that aren’t heart attacks? What might be some warning signs?

Wen: Someone with heart rhythm abnormalities might experience palpitations and feel like their heart is suddenly beating quickly and irregularly. They might experience lightheadedness and feeling faint. People with congestive heart failure could have gradual worsening of their ability to exercise and start feeling winded after a short walk. They might notice swelling in their legs and require more pillows to be comfortable sleeping at night.

CNN: What should women do to improve their cardiac health?

Wen: The most important thing is to be aware of and manage existing medical conditions that increase your risk of heart disease. High blood pressure is one such risk factor. More than 56 million American women have high blood pressure. That’s 44% of adult women in the United States. While the incidence of high blood pressure increases with age, many younger women have this condition, too; according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women of reproductive age have high blood pressure.

Fewer than 1 in 4 women with high blood pressure have this condition under control, according to the CDC. Keeping on top of your blood pressure and optimizing it with lifestyle changes and medications, if needed, is key to reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications.

The same goes for women with diabetes and high cholesterol. Obesity is also a major risk factor, as is smoking, excessive alcohol intake, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. Women should also not discount the role of stress, sleep, and mental well-being, which can also influence heart health.d thrive.

CommUnityCare Health Centers Celebrates Black History Month

February marks Black History Month, a dedicated opportunity to recognize and appreciate the significant contributions and rich culture of African Americans.  

As we celebrate Black History Month, we recognize the widespread disparity of access to respectful, quality health care and its negative impact on health outcomes for black communities. In Texas, racial and ethnic inequities in medical treatment rank among the highest in the nation, and despite this, communities of color continue to be resilient and thrive.  

Join us as we shine a light on the voices and unique experiences of some of our black team members who are dedicated to the mission of strengthening the health and well-being of the communities we serve here in Central Texas.  

Jael Williams – Care Manager Supervisor: Sexual Health Program 

Jael Williams, CommUnityCare Care Manager Supervisor: Sexual Health Program, has been supporting the health of communities facing the greatest barriers to health care and the heaviest burdens of illness since 2019.  

Her work on our Sexual Health Team focuses on populations at greatest risk of contracting HIV. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black people account for a higher proportion of people with HIV compared to other races and ethnicities. Racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty, and barriers to health care continue to drive these disparities.  

“The Sexual Health Program works to develop effective outreach, education, and testing strategies and has partnered with local institutions like Huston-Tillotson University, the oldest HBCU [Historically Black College and University] in Austin, to collaborate with students who are equally passionate about educating their communities on how to stay healthy,” Williams explains. “I hope the impact has been a positive one: through empowering and supporting black people in self-advocacy and ownership of their health, confident partnerships between black patients and their provider teams will lead to positive health outcomes.” 

Raised in inner city Trenton, New Jersey, Jael’s parents cultivated a strong sense of compassion in her and her siblings that gave them the ability to see similarities instead of differences and feel comfortable in any environment.  

“Whether being educated in a highly competitive private school, homeschooled, or attending community college; providing community outreach with and to the street hustlers in our neighborhood at a young age; attending and eventually teaching dance classes at a Black woman-owned studio for 15 years; or having dinners with White House consultants and political pollsters as a teen, every experience was a teachable moment.”  

Tiffany Clayton – Pharmacy Technician: Patient Assistance Program (PAP)  

“I offer a unique understanding of the cultural and social factors that influence health factors in the [black] community. As a health care professional, I plant seeds of hope in our patients to help regain their trust in an overall broken health care system,” said Tiffany Clayton, PAP Pharmacy Technician at CommUnityCare Health Centers. “I serve as a role model, showing young black and brown kids in the community that careers in health care are attainable and rewarding. Representation matters.”  

Since 2020, Tiffany has been an integral part of the Patient Assistance Program, assisting patients in securing access to medications at little to no cost. She prides herself in engaging in meaningful dialogue with patients to ensure their voices are acknowledged. Tiffany deeply appreciates family, culture, and the values her mother instilled in her from a young age. “My mother, a woman of resilience and unwavering determination, worked tirelessly to provide for me and my three siblings. Watching her juggle multiple jobs, I learned early the value of hard work and the bitter taste of struggle,” Clayton explains, “The image of my mother’s weary but unyielding eyes became my motivation, a silent promise to myself that I would strive for a better life.”  

In 2019, Clayton became the second person in her immediate family to graduate college, earning her bachelor’s degree in biology from Huston-Tillotson University. There, she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., an organization committed to community support with a primary focus on the black community. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Abilene Christian University, with sights on graduating in 2024.  

Her drive to help others is not just a professional choice, but a personal one. At the age of 5, her son Gregory was diagnosed with Autism, which opened her eyes to the unique struggles and triumphs of other families with children on the spectrum. This inspired Tiffany to become an advocate, dedicating her time outside of work to help other families navigate the complexities of life with a child with Autism.  

“My life is a testament to the power of perseverance, community, and the enduring strength of family bonds. My story is about overcoming challenges and transforming them into avenues for growth, compassion, and societal contribution. As I move forward, I carry with me the legacy of my mother’s strength, the joy of my family’s unity, and a heart dedicated to service.” 

Tara Trower – Chief Strategy Officer 

In her role as Chief Strategy Officer for CommUnityCare Health Centers, Tara Trower combines a passion for civic engagement with her passion for helping her community thrive. “I get my energy from being with people who share my commitment to being proactive on behalf of those who, for various reasons, have difficulty accessing the things that many take for granted – shelter, health care, education, childcare, economic stability and food,” Trower says.  

Trower has spent much of her career shedding light on the inequities within our communities, amplifying the voices of marginalized individuals and bringing attention to systemic injustices. Trower spent years as a journalist at the Austin American-Statesman where she was able to shine a light on systemic inequities. She later joined The University of Texas at Austin where she played a role in bringing equitable access to education. Now, Trower works to bring equitable access to care in Travis County and Central Texas with CommUnityCare Health Centers.  

“African Americans are overrepresented in nearly every negative health category there is…in addition to looking at the data to support the strategic vision of community, I also lean on my community knowledge as a longtime Austinite and my lived experience as an African American woman.”  

Tara grew up in a military family, moving around the United States for her father’s assignments. Frequent moving meant experiencing different cultures and communities, and as a woman of color, navigating race-based assumptions. In some instances, she was the only black person in her school where her academic abilities were underestimated, her athletic abilities were overestimated, and when she spoke on topics like affirmative action, it was assumed she was speaking for all black people everywhere.  

“My experiences taught me about the dangers of making assumptions and to treat every encounter with a new person as a fresh slate. It’s one of the approaches I hope our team members take with our patients,” Trower explains. “I have suffered the indignity of being treated one way by a doctor when I was dressed in my executive pantsuit and a completely different way by the same care team when I showed up in sweats. We all have biases; it takes work to see the individual. I’m lucky that I have had lots of practice over the decades, allowing me to better support the work to improve the health of all the communities we serve.” 

6 Tips for a Healthy 2024 

Health is about more than visiting the doctor’s office. Adding small but significant healthy habits to your daily life will lead to big improvements in your overall health and wellness in 2024.  Set yourself up for long-term success with these 6 tips for getting and staying healthy in the new year.  

Set Realistic Goals  

Big change happens in small steps. When people try to change too much, too quickly, they set themselves up for failure and can lose motivation. Set goals and make simple, measurable plans to take steps toward a healthier you. For example, if you’d like to start eating healthier snacks, a simple goal may look like exploring one new healthy snack each week. An unrealistic goal may be immediately preparing healthy snacks five days a week. Once you’ve accomplished one small goal, move on to the next, and by the end of the year, you’ll have accomplished so much.  

Move Your Body 

Moving your body is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can improve your brain health, reduce your risk of disease, and improve your ability to do everyday activities. Some examples of steps you can take to slowly increase your physical activity include walking while catching up with a friend or family member on the phone, dancing at home or at a class, and parking farther away from the entrance of wherever you’re going.   

Two of our locations, Southeast Health & Wellness Center and Hornsby Bend Health & Wellness Center, offer Zumba classes if you’re looking for a new and fun way to move your body. Call 512-978-9015 for more information on class schedules.

Eat More Vegetables, Fruit, Beans and Whole Grains 

Eating more plant-based foods—whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans—plays a big role in preventing illness and helping you live a healthier life. These foods are high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients your body needs to thrive. You can get started by adding more vegetables (even small amounts) to your plate at lunch and dinner and including whole grains, like oatmeal and fruit, to your breakfast. 

Drink More Water 

Water is vital to our health. It plays a key role in how your body feels and functions—it even affects energy levels and how well your brain works. Most people need around 64 ounces, or eight cups, of water per day.  

Try keeping a reusable bottle with you, setting reminders to drink more water (for example, try setting a reminder to take a few sips of water every 30 minutes), or find ways to flavor your water with fruit to make your drinking experience more pleasurable. You can also eat more foods that are high in water, like zucchini, cabbage, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.  

Prioritize Sleep 

Sleep does more than just help you feel rested and energized for the day. Lack of sleep can raise your risk of high blood pressure, increased stress, weight gain, and depression.  

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a day. Try minimizing screen time before bed and get settled in bed just 10 minutes earlier to start.  

Schedule Health Screenings  

There’s no better time than the new year to schedule anannual check-up or any other health screening you may need. Regular check-ups allow your doctor to identify potential health issues before they become bigger problems. Scheduling your annual check-up or screening will also help you stay on top of immunizations and other preventative care.  

For quality, affordable care regardless of your insurance status or ability to pay, schedule an appointment at one of our locations by calling 512-978-9015 or visiting communitycaretx.org

Ben White Dental Practice Moves to South Austin Health Center

Effective Sept 18th, CommUnityCare Ben White Dental site will be closed. Dr Lorena Ray will move her practice to our South Austin Health Center (2529 S. First St.) Hygienist services will move to Southeast Health & Wellness (2901 Montopolis Drive). If you have an existing appointment with either provider, your visit will be automatically moved to the new location and our staff will reach out to confirm. Please call (512) 978-9955 to schedule an appointment at any of our dental locations.

Additional information can be found here: (https://bit.ly/BenWhiteDental)

CommUnityCare ™ and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin Establish New Health Center in East Austin

CommUnityCare ™, along with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA), are excited to announce the grand opening of the Chalmers Courts Health Center. This marks a historic step as one of the first times a federally designated community health center has been established directly within a Central Texas subsidized housing property. The CommUnityCare Chalmers Courts Health Center is located adjacent to Pathways at Chalmers Courts East, a newly rebuilt HACA property serving low-income families in East Austin.

Built in 1939, Chalmers Courts was one of the earliest public housing projects created under the U.S. Housing Act of 1937. In 2022, HACA redeveloped Pathways at Chalmers Courts East as the second phase of a three-stage renovation (including Chalmers Courts West and South) to expand to 398 deeply affordable housing units and offer valuable support services for low-income families. 

The Chalmers Courts Health Center will be critical to providing health and wellness services for residents and the community. The 5,000-square-foot health center offers family medicine, dental, behavioral health, labs, pharmacy services, care coordination and management.

“The rising costs of living in East Austin has forced many of our low-income and minority patients to leave a community they have called home for years,” said CommUnityCare Chief Executive Officer Jaeson Fournier. “Through this partnership with HACA, CommUnityCare is bringing its high quality and affordable primary care services just a few steps away from the doors of Chalmer’s residence.  And thanks to support from Central Health and this innovative partnership, underserved East siders will have access to a medical home in the heart of their community for years to come.”

According to a 2018 HACA Community Health Needs Assessment, 42% of the 150 existing Chalmers residents surveyed said that they visited an emergency room in the prior year, 73% had one or more chronic disease, 43% had difficulty accessing dental services, and 88% indicated that they would likely use on-site primary care services.

“The opening of the Chalmers Courts Health Center marks an exciting milestone for the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, CommUnityCare, Central Health, and the residents of Chalmers Courts,” said HACA President and CEO Michael Gerber. “Too many low-income and vulnerable people in Austin–especially in communities of color–have lacked access to health care resources.  The Chalmers Center represents a major step forward for our residents and the surrounding community to achieve a healthier, happier, and more independent quality of life.”

Medical appointments at the CommUnityCare Chalmers Courts Health Center can be scheduled by calling 512-978-8650. Dental appointments can be scheduled by calling 512-978-9640.