CommUnityCare Expanding Access to Care with New Pflugerville Health Center
CommUnityCare Health Centers is set to expand access to care in the northern part of Travis County with the construction of a new $3.1 million health center. The new space is expected to open in early 2023 and will replace CommUnityCare’s existing Pflugerville Health Center which originally opened in 2009.
“Thanks to financial support from both the federal government and Central Health, CommUnityCare’s plans for a new and larger Pflugerville Health Center are becoming a reality,” said Jaeson Fournier, CommUnityCare Chief Executive Officer. “This new health center will allow us to more comprehensively and thoroughly meet the health care needs of Pflugerville residents.”
The new 15,000 square-foot health center will offer pediatric services, family medicine services, women’s health services, dental services, and laboratory services. The new health center will also include integrated care coordination, care management, and behavioral health services. Planning for the space includes a large and efficient reception area, a dedicated medical area consisting of 24 medical examination rooms, and a dedicated dental area consisting of 9 to 10 operatories.
The new health center will be centrally located at The Three Points Plaza at 2700 W. Pecan St where patients will also have access to more parking. The new health center will be easily accessible and only around half a mile from the current location. Construction is expected to begin in July 2022.
CommUnityCare in collaboration with Central Health is set to expand access to care by opening four new health centers across Travis County in the span of 18 months. New health centers are set to open in Pflugerville, Hornsby Bend, Del Valle, and East Austin, allowing CommUnityCare to further its mission of strengthening the health and well-being of the communities it serves.
CommUnityCare is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and Federally Qualified Health Center that provides outpatient health care services to lower-income populations in Travis County and surrounding areas across 27 health centers.
COMMUNITYCARE EXPANDING ACCESS TO CARE WITH THREE NEW HEALTH CENTERS
CommUnityCare Health Centers and Central Health are set to open three new health centers over the next 18 months beginning with a new Chalmers Courts Health Center in East Austin, and replacement and larger health centers in Del Valle and Hornsby Bend. These three new locations will expand access to care and increase services within these Travis County underserved communities, all of which have demonstrated and longstanding health disparities when compared to other areas of Travis County.
“Achieving greater health equity is the core of CommUnityCare’s vision. We know that individuals and families that experience economic and social insecurity consistently experience worse health outcomes,” said Jaeson Fournier, CommUnityCare Chief Executive Officer. “So, when we take a look at ways to provide access to care it’s imperative for us to identify the communities that face various obstacles and develop solutions to address the health disparities residents in our communities face.”
Groundbreaking ceremonies were recently held on the future sites of all three facilities. Hornsby Bend Health and Wellness Center broke ground March 26, Del Valle Health and Wellness Center broke ground April 2 and Chalmers Courts Health Center broke ground April 4.
Chalmers Courts Health Center
CommUnityCare, Central Health and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin will establish this Community Health Center directly within Pathways at Chalmers Courts East, a project-based rental assistance property for low-income residents in East Austin. The 5,000 square foot health center is set to include family primary care services, dental services, labs, imaging, pharmacy, care coordination, and care management. It is located at 314 Chicon Street and set to open late Summer to early Fall 2022.
“The Chalmers Courts Health Center will help remove so many barriers to health care that our residents face every day as they will have this amazing facility right in their own backyard. This health center will help us fulfill the vision for a complete Chalmers Community that supports our residents and east Austin neighbors,” said Michael Gerber, HACA President and CEO.
Hornsby Bend Health and Wellness Center
This new 7,800 square foot facility will be located at 3700 Gilbert Road, replacing the existing Hornsby Bend Health Center. It will offer residents primary medical care, integrated behavioral health, oral assessments, community gathering space, plus more. It is set to open Spring 2023.
Del Valle Health and Wellness Center
This 18,900 square foot facility will replace the existing Del Valle Health Center. The Del Valle Health & Wellness Center will include primary care, dental care, integrated mental health, and a pharmacy. It is set to open Summer 2023.
What You Need to Know about the Baby Formula Recall
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an expanded recall of Abbott Nutrition’s baby formula warning families not to use certain powdered infant formulas over bacterial contamination concerns.
The recalled products include Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered formulas. The recalled products can be found on the company’s website using the 7 to 9 digit code and expiration date.
As of February 28, the FDA states that there have been four total reports of Cronobacter infections and one complaint of a Salmonella infection. All five of the reported illnesses, which include cases in Texas, have led to hospitalization and may have contributed to the death of two of the infants.
According to healthychildren.org Cronobacter is a bacteria that can cause a life-threatening infection called sepsis and meningitis which is an inflammation around the brain and spine. Salmonella can cause stomach and intestinal illness.
If you are a parent and your baby’s formula is recalled healthychildren.org advises you take it in store for an exchange or refund. It is also advised that you contact your pediatrician if you are worried about switching formulas. CommUnityCare pediatricians are ready to assist and answer any questions for parents who are concerned over which formula is safe.
Parents using WIC benefits should call WIC offices for more assistance if they are unable to exchange or return.
For more answers to commonly asked questions such as what to do if you can’t find a formula in stock due to the pandemic, other ways bacteria can spread while feeding your baby, or special considerations for premature babies visit healthychildren.org.
Healthy Chef Cooking Program Supports Healthy Diets and Lives
Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could stop the success of CommUnityCare’s Healthy Chef Cooking Program in improving clients’ diets around Central Texas.
Founded in 2016, the program teaches nutrition education and provides hands-on learning to use healthy ingredients to create healthy meals. The program lasts six weeks, with six separate cohorts taking lessons in English or Spanish.
“The most rewarding part of this program for me is the cooking classes. It’s really neat to see people who are uncomfortable with certain cooking techniques or do not have good health literacy prepare meals and get that sense of success,” said Elyse Henson, CommUnityCare’s Clinical Nutrition Manager & Outpatient Dietitian.
Healthy Chef serves more than 100 patients per year and, after a brief pause during 2020, has adjusted to continuing its mission during the pandemic Class sizes have gotten smaller. Masks and vaccines are required. And in-class food sharing has been replaced by to-go-boxes that allow for after-hours tasting.
The program increased access to lessons in healthy eating both before and after COVID-19 arrived. In 2019, for instance, the “Lose to Win” weight management class consisted of three groups with 24 hour-and-a-half long classes, for a total of 108 hours of lessons for Central Texas residents. This year, six groups are taking 12 two-and-a-half hour classes that collectively offer 180 hours of lessons in diet and nutrition.
The instructors present the nutritional teachings at the start of each class. They cover a broad range of topics, such as what it means to sauté or how much is in a tablespoon.
The lessons follow a set curriculum, with the first focused on kitchen safety, teaching participants how to keep meat and produce separate from one another and store them properly.
Other lessons explain what a healthy plate looks like, including the right daily balance of protein and starches and their roles in a healthy diet. Students actively participate in all lessons by answering questions, reading instructions, and helping to cook.
Participants are recruited from a variety of CommUnityCare health centers. Information is posted on flyers and digital screens. Physicians are encouraged to tell patients about the program if they believe they would benefit. About 90% of the clients who participate in the program are at risk for health complications.
Many participants cite the class as a highlight of their week. Although participation is limited to once per year, some clients find it so valuable they rejoin the program each year.
To learn more about enrolling in the Healthy Chef Cooking Program, please call 512-978-9269.
Delta Dental Grant Will Improve Dental Health for CommUnityCare Patients
CommUnityCare Health Centers provide much-needed dental care to about 17,000 Central Texans each year through seven dental clinics, including three that serve children from low-income families.
Now, the centers will be able to reach these patients even more effectively, thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation. The generous grant will help buy new equipment, supplies and chairs — and directly keep down costs for patients in need
“Many of CommUnityCare’s patients across Central Texas have gone years without regular dental care and are facing significant problems with their teeth and other areas of oral health care,” said CommUnityCare Chief Executive Officer Jaeson Fournier. “We are grateful for this commitment from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, which will directly support our mission to strengthen the health and well-being of the communities we serve.”
The funding is part of more than $20 million in grants the foundation is distributing this year throughout the 15 states and the District of Columbia, where Delta Dental of California operates.
The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies. Since 2011, it has awarded more than $60 million to health centers, food banks, disaster relief agencies and other community nonprofits to increase access to dental care, oral health education, and advance scientific research. Much of the foundation’s work goes towards improving equity in diverse communities.
“We’re honored to support CommUnityCare and their efforts to promote oral health care in the communities they serve,” said Kenzie Ferguson, vice president of foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California.
“This year, we looked for grant applicants who can meet the needs of those who often do not have access to quality dental health resources, such as the elderly, individuals in rural areas, and underserved communities of color. CommUnityCare stood out as a nonprofit organization that shared our mission and values. We’re very happy to extend this grant to them.”
CommUnityCare’s dental health services include exams, teeth cleaning, fillings, extractions, dentures, sealants, emergency treatment, and exams for children as young as 1-year-old as part of their well medical checkup. CommUnityCare also operates the School-Based Sealant Program for Austin Independent School District Title 1 schools.
AMBULANCE SPRINTER WILL HELP CARE FOR AUSTIN’S HOMELESS POPULATION
Thanks to a generous $100,000 grant from the LOLA WRIGHT FOUNDATION, CommUnityCare will buy a new Ambulance Sprinter van in 2022 that can serve as a mini-medical clinic. The sprinter will allow CommUnityCare’s HEALTHCARE FOR THE HOMELESS team to expand mobile healthcare services to Austin’s homeless population.
The funds will also be used for other items to support street medicine, such as sleeping bags, clothing and tents.
“The Lola Wright Foundation’s support and partnership will help to serve people experiencing homelessness, promoting comprehensive wellness and preventive care while potentially avoiding critical illness and hospitalization,” said CommUnityCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nicholas Yagoda. “The Ambulance Sprinter is about providing the right care at the right time, and with the help of the Lola Wright Foundation, this vision will become a reality for more Central Texans.”
CommUnityCare has long served those in Travis County experiencing homelessness, providing them with necessary healthcare and supportive services. This includes operating the clinic at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), a shelter in downtown Austin, and offering medical care for unsheltered individuals staying near Sunrise Church, a homeless resource center in South Austin.
The Clinical Lead for the Healthcare for the Homeless team, Dr. Audrey Kuang shared, “Our street medicine team has been providing comprehensive primary care services to unsheltered individuals for the past five years in Austin. Through our consistent and compassionate care, our patients have come to trust us with their healthcare needs and beyond. The sprinter van will allow us to expand our services and our reach no matter rain or shine. We are so grateful to the Lola Wright Foundation for supporting our work.”
CommUnityCare also provides dental and vision care and has served more than 1,000 individuals experiencing homelessness. The grant from the Lola Wright Foundation and the new Ambulance Sprinter will build on these efforts and continue to help the unsheltered population in Travis County better manage their healthcare.
Founded in 1954, the Lola Wright Foundation supports children and youth, public health and human services, education and community development and arts and culture. It provides grants to organizations in and around Austin.
CommUnityCare expects to purchase and dispatch the Ambulance Sprinter in early 2022. Click to learn more about COMMUNITYCARE’S STREET MEDICINE TEAM.
ASK THE DOCTOR: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED ABOUT VACCINES AND MASKS
CommUnityCare Health Centers Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nicholas Yagoda answers some of the most common questions we are hearing as the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreads in Central Texas.
I haven’t gotten my first COVID-19 vaccine, and now I hear there are three or four required. Is it too late to catch up? Is there any point?
It is never too late to get started on updating your vaccines.
COVID-19 is likely to be with us for years to come, so starting to build your immunity through vaccines will have long-lasting benefits for you and those around you. Most of the vaccines we receive as a normal part of our healthcare require multiple doses to build full immunity, and COVID-19 is no different. It takes time to build a strong immune response.
I’m healthy and have already had the first two shots. Do I really need a booster? Isn’t that just a recommendation?
The booster is now strongly recommended based on Omicron’s ability to escape the immunity generated by the initial vaccination doses. Additionally, the immunity from only one or two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines started to wane after 4-6 months. Based on our experience with other vaccines, this is not surprising. It is quite common among our routine vaccinations to require multiple doses to achieve sustained, effective immunity. The COVID-19 vaccine boosters are following the same pattern.
I’m vaccinated, and I’m now hearing about the need to wear masks again — is that really necessary?
Masking is an important barrier to prevent infection when our immune systems are not strong enough to protect us from serious illnesses that might require hospitalization or cause death. The immunity we develop following initial vaccine doses is initially very strong but gradually starts to weaken. Fortunately, boosters help restore strong protection. So while we work to get our community their protective boosters, we return to masking to keep us safe at a time when we are vulnerable.
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR’S CLOSURES
CommUnityCare Health Centers will be closed all day on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (Dec. 24 – 25), and News Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (Dec. 31 – Jan. 1).
The only exceptions are:
- HANCOCK CONVENIENT CARE will be open all of those days
- CAROUSEL PEDIATRICS – Riverside will be open from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day
Have a happy and healthy holidays.
Dec.1.2021-Blog-World AIDS Day-2021
This December 1st 2021 marks World AIDS Day — a solemn moment of reflection during the 40th year of the HIV epidemic. For many of the early survivors, World AIDS Day is a somber moment to pause in remembrance of those who lost their lives to HIV; celebration as we note the progress that has been made in science and medicine; and consternation as we pass yet another year of an epidemic that has not been brought under control.
CommUnityCare has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV in central Texas with the David Powell Health Center, which has been centering people living with HIV with comprehensive primary care, pharmacy, mental and behavioral health, and social services for over 30 years. Click on the video to hear from our team members at David Powell who are at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Nov.22, 2021-Blog-Intensive Outpatient Care and the Care Connections Clinic
By Audrey Kuang, MD
In 1978, Delta Airlines pioneered the “Hub and Spoke” model, following deregulation of the airline industry, with the goal of increasing access and efficiency of air travel. Atlanta, GA was established as the hub through which most flights were routed while other airports were designated as spokes where travelers might begin or complete their routes. In healthcare, the Hub and Spoke Model has been used to increase access to specialized care within primary care settings, in addition to the traditional offering at a hospital or specialty clinic. CommUnityCare’ s Care Connections (CareCo) Clinic serves as both a hub (for complex procedures) and a spoke (for key services), bringing together a remarkable array of services for our patients with the highest burden of clinical illness as well as people experiencing homelessness. With this model we are boldly and safely challenging traditional notions of “right care, right place, right time.” Some of these services include the following:
1. Paracentesis is a procedure that is typically provided in a hospital setting that provides relief to individuals by draining fluid that has accumulated in the abdomen. This procedure helps avoid visits to the emergency room or hospital, and patients prefer the calm setting of our clinic with their trusted providers and team.
2. Hepatitis C treatment was traditionally provided exclusively by a GI or Infectious Disease specialist, but with newer hepatitis C medications, treatment protocols have been simplified allowing for treatment in the primary care setting. CareCo is one of a number of sites at CommUnityCare to offer Hep C screening, diagnosis and treatment within the convenience of our patients’ primary care experience.
3. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines medication and behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorder, including the remarkably effective medication, buprenorphine, for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Initiation of this treatment requires intensive support, however, once a patient has stabilized on buprenorphine at our SEHWC hub, they are then transferred to a spoke site, including CareCo, for continued treatment. This exciting work is led by our MAT lead, Emily Humphrey.
4. HIV care has traditionally been delivered out of our hub site, the David Powell Clinic. Timely linkage to care is critical in the treatment of HIV, and CareCo Clinic has been developed as a spoke site to provide HIV care. Through additional HRSA grant funding, a HIV case manager and community health worker will be hired to assist with the spoke model work. This exciting addition is led by our Sexual Health Associate Director, Dr. Mike Stefanowicz.
November 12, 2021-Press Release-BOOSTER SHOTS AVAILABLE FOR AGE 65+ AND OTHER ELIGIBLE PATIENTS; PFIZER VACCINES AVAILABLE FOR ALL CHILDREN AGES 5 THROUGH 11
(Austin) – Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare Health Centers is now administering Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 through 11 years old who are established patients. CommUnityCare is also offering booster shots by appointment only to eligible adult patients who completed their primary Pfizer-BIONtech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine series. Children and adult patients can receive their shots at their CommUnityCare home clinic (medical home).
To support the demand for pediatric vaccines and provide adequate staffing, CommUnityCare will close its walk-in vaccine locations starting this Friday, Nov. 12, at Rosewood-Zaragoza, North Central Health Center, and Southeast Health & Wellness Center. “CommUnityCare strongly encourages patients eligible for a COVID-19 booster to come in and get their shot and is also encouraging parents to vaccinate their children five and up,” CommUnityCare CEO Jaeson Fournier said, while noting that, “Vaccines continue to be the most effective way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the following vaccine recipients are eligible for any of the COVID-19 boosters authorized in the United States:
- Those who have completed the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series at least six months ago and are:
- 65 years or older
- Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
- Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings
- Those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago and are 18 years and older
“Vaccines and boosters are key to stopping the spread and keeping each other safe,” Central Health President & CEO Mike Geeslin said. “COVID boosters and pediatric vaccines are free and will be the best reinforcement for a safe and healthy holiday season.” Pfizer’s vaccine for younger kids is two doses of 10 micrograms, rather than the 30 micrograms per dose used for people 12 and older.
For more information and to schedule appointments, call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015. For the latest information on CommUnityCare’s efforts related to COVID-19, visit HTTPS://COMMUNITYCARETX.ORG/COVID19/#VACCINEINFO.
November 8, 2021-Blog-Why CommUnityCare Matters Video
We’re celebrating more than 10 years of serving Central Texas to improve health equity and we are looking forward to another 10 years. We are committed to providing the right care, at the right time, and the right place for those who need us most. We can’t wait to show you what we do next. Click on the video below to learn more.
Nov. 1, 2021-Blog-The DAISY Award Winner - Marion Douglas
Nurses are the heart of CommUnityCare Health Centers and are often the first providers that patients engage with. Listen to Marion Douglas, long time nurse and The DAISY Award winner talk about why she loves working at CommUnityCare and what the DAISY award means to her.
Oct. 28, 2021-Blog-Prevention, Engagement and Health Equity for Women at the ARCH Clinic
By: Dr. Audrey Kuang
The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) is a homeless shelter in downtown Austin that can house up to 100 individuals on any given night. Our ARCH clinic, dedicated to patients experiencing homelessness, is located on the first floor of the lobby.
On October 14th, 2021, the ARCH clinic team hosted a special event for women experiencing homelessness, to encourage health screening and improve health engagement. The event was open only to women, and they were warmly welcomed into the waiting room for snacks, tea, and free goodies like purses and nail polish. Many women participated, some of who had not had any regular healthcare for over 10 years. Pap smears (cervical cancer screening) were collected, mammograms were ordered, flu and Covid vaccines were administered, and screening labs (for diabetes, STDs, etc.) were performed. The women had a chance to meet the whole team, including our behavioral health counselor and case manager, to discuss their needs and struggles. Many women shared that, through the event, they felt loved and cared for; our hope is that our team at the ARCH will continue to support these women to promote their health and well-being.
Oct. 20, 2021-Blog-Tips for Providers to Avoid Burnout
Oct. 12, 2021-Press Release-GUIDELINES AND ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS ANNOUNCED FOR COVID-19 BOOSTER SHOTS BY COMMUNITYCARE
(Austin) – COMMUNITYCARE HEALTH CENTERS announced guidelines and eligibility requirements for COVID-19 booster shots for patients and non-patients who received their second Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, to be eligible for the Pfizer booster shot, individuals must have completed their primary Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago AND are either:
- 65 years of age and older
- residents of long-term care facilities
- aged 50-64 with an underlying medical condition
- aged 18-49 with an underlying medical condition who want a booster vaccine based on individual assessment of benefit and risk
- aged 18-64 who are in an occupational or institutional setting where the burden of COVID-19 infection and risk of transmission is high (including but not limited to healthcare workers, first responders, and teachers)
Studies have shown that after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus, including the delta variant, may decrease over time. COVID-19 vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent severe disease, although data suggest that mild disease may still occur, especially with the delta variant. Based on clinical trial data, a Pfizer booster shot improves protection against COVID-19, including the delta variant.
“We strongly encourage recommended groups who got their second COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine more than six months ago to get a booster shot now,” CommUnityCare CEO Jaeson Fournier said while noting that, “Eligible CommUnityCare patients can schedule their booster shot by calling 512-978-9015 or they can stop by our Rosewood Zaragosa Vaccine Clinic, North Central Health Center, or Southeast Health & Wellness Center to get their booster without an appointment.”
CommUnityCare will also be providing the COVID-19 boosters to anyone from the community who is eligible to receive their COVID-19 Pfizer booster at the walk-in sites mentioned above. Consistent with CDC guidance, CommUnityCare will only be providing the Pfizer booster to people already vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. People in the eligible groups who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine might also see enhanced protection from a booster shot but will need to wait for further study and analysis from the CDC and authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
June 14, 2021-CommUnityCare Health Centers Announces the Hire of Nicholas Yagoda, MD as Chief Medical Officer
(Austin) – It is with distinct pleasure that Central Texas Community Health Centers (dba CommUnityCare) announces Dr. Nicholas Yagoda as our Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
As CMO, Dr. Yagoda is responsible for the overall clinical leadership, provider practice, and overall performance and advancement of a diverse provider group that has the privilege of caring for underserved residents of Austin and its surrounding areas.
Dr. Yagoda joined CommUnityCare in 2014 and throughout his tenure with us has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to strengthening the health and well-being of the patients and families we are so privileged to care for. He currently serves as CommUnityCare’s Associate CMO and has been intimately involved in our response to the coronavirus pandemic and our recent implementation of Epic system-wide. Nick has also been a physician champion with several other initiatives including the continued evolution of our care model and is a demonstrated champion for health equity. Since 2014, Nick has continuously cared for our communities as a family medicine physician with a focus on HIV and addiction medicine. He further helped develop the region’s first treatment program for uninsured people with opioid use disorders and is a founding member of the Fast Track Cities/Getting to Zero Taskforce to end the HIV epidemic in Travis County.
Dr. Yagoda is also an Assistant Professor of Population Health at the University of Texas at Austin – Dell Medical School and his writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals including The Annals of Family Medicine, The Journal of Family Practice, and Nature. He is from Brooklyn, New York, completed his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and his post-graduate training at the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) based Lawrence Family Medicine Residency in northeastern Massachusetts.
June 3, 2021-CommUnityCare Health Centers Announces the Hire of Tara Trower as Chief Strategy Officer
(Austin) – CommUnityCare Health Centers welcomes Tara Trower as their new chief strategy officer (CSO) effective June 14th, 2021. As CSO, Tara will assist CommUnityCare in leading and advancing strategic initiatives and planning efforts, overseeing community engagement and communications, expanding the development and philanthropy footprint, and continuing to foster strong relationships with community partners.
Tara brings more than 20 years of experience in communications and operations and is a highly regarded, data-driven leader. She most recently served as the chief of staff for The University of Texas at Austin’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, where she planned and managed strategic initiatives for a portfolio of 44 operational units and consulted on communications and media relations strategy for several departments. Tara also spent more than 18 years as a journalist, covering education, politics, government, and community issues in Central Texas, most notably as senior editor for opinion and commentary (Viewpoints) for the Austin American-Statesman.