In June this year, AFC and Pride Action Tank announced the pilot launch of the Connection to Care Learning Collaborative (CCLC), which seeks to work with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and look-alikes in Chicago to increase their capacity to provide LGBTQ+ HIV care for their patients.
This Learning Collaborative is focused on increasing capacity in three key areas: LGBTQ+ culturally responsive HIV Care programming to Black-led and Latine-led health centers, PrEP and HIV treatment, and sustainability through funding and staff retention.
One of these FQHCs is TCA Health Inc., located on the Far South Side of Chicago. This health center is crucial not only to neighborhoods within Chicago, but many residents from suburbs like Dolton and Riverdale. “We offer a full extensive care menu for our community to come in and get exactly what they need,” said Brandon Wright, program coordinator for TCA. “(As) someone who lives and loves in a community that is affected by HIV, (I have an) understanding that there is a need for services and comprehensive care from our physicians to our community.”
Since joining the Collaborative, TCA has had success pushing conversations with community members about sexual health education in order to properly fight stigma and the spreading of HIV. They have also used the collaboration to find staff with passion who are members of these communities, which builds a beneficial level of trust. “I would say one of our biggest successes is being able to find the right people who are committed to the work, who are dedicated to the work, who are able to connect with various people and populations and identities, able to relate to different people, populations and identities, and bridging all that”, said Donisha Reed, Director of Population & Community Health Program at TCA Health. “To create this, I know the word safe space is used a lot, but really it creates a safe space where people are telling us information that they wouldn't tell their providers or wouldn't tell their medical assistants.”
This collaborative has not only given TCA Health new opportunities to teach its community members, but to teach and learn from different health centers across Chicago. “Medical providers and nurses from health centers that have had Ryan White funding for a long time, serving large HIV populations (have met with) our Health Center providers so that they can learn from one another,” said Samantha Oliver Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer at TCA. “I think for us, this is new and this is an opportunity to expand. Just learn from other peers.” Wright, when speaking on working with other centers in Chicago stated, “I think that the care collaborative has a unique way of bringing agencies together to have the dialogue and keep the conversation going outside of our monthly meetings. You start to build and cultivate a mutually respected and resourceful network needed for the work ahead.”
When asked what impact should TCA Health have on the community, Reed said, “I was an FQHC baby. I didn't know it was a FQHC growing up, of course. But you know, me and my whole family went to FQHC's, and so I want people to know, we're really here to help them through this process of life or violence or whatever health issue that they're facing. Really letting people know that we are here for them and we'll walk them through the different pieces and parts of healthcare outside of going.”
TCA Health is located at 1029 E 130th Street and 8425 S. Cottage Grove. For any information regarding TCA, visit tcahealth.org.
Categorized under AFC news and Inside Story.