Access to healthcare, especially the kind of preventative primary care that can help residents avoid a hospital visit, has long been an issue in Austin.
Thresholds, a Ravenswood-based addiction recovery service provider that already had a supportive housing location in Austin, 5801 W. Corcoran Pl., decided to do its part to turn the tide.
“What Thresholds felt – they were concerned for their clients who weren’t receiving primary care,” said Edward Murphy, CEO of the newly minted Thresholds Health center. And so, from that, they determined that we want to become a community health center.”
They put the health center into the building’s first-floor office space. Thresholds Health opened to Thresholds clients last September, and it opened its doors to the West Side at large in early March. The clinic provides a wide variety of primary care services, mental health services and addiction treatment, and it’s open to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.
According to its website, Threshold Health offers primary care for kids and adults, with the site specifically mentioning school physicals, vaccinations and treatment for diabetes and hypertension. It also offers mental health services, substance abuse treatment, contraception and reproductive health services, as well as services for pregnant women. The clinic is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Murphy said Thresholds Health accepts private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. Those who have no insurance are charged on a sliding scale based on income.
“The main thing here about Thresholds Health is we’re not going to turn anybody away because of their ability to pay,” he said.
Thresholds Health seeks to be more than a health center. Like many other West Side healthcare providers, they recognize that there are other factors that affect health that fall outside the scope of their work. Murphy specially mentioned lack of stable housing, struggling to afford food and lack of affordable daycare. Like other healthcare providers, Thresholds Health is trying to team up with local nonprofits who might be able to address those needs.
“We’re looking to partner with others in the community, such as Housing Forward, West Side Child Development Center, these types of community organizations, as we move ourselves and try to situate ourselves in the community,” Murphy said.
He said that Thresholds Health was conscious of the fact that the majority of Austinites are either Black or Hispanic, and they hired staff accordingly.
“What’s important for us is the trust factor,” Murphy said. “So, what we’ve done is hired providers who look like the community. [People tend to] have more trust and faith in those who look like you, be able to bond with you based on your background or culture.”
While Thresholds Health has been open to the community for over a month, it wasn’t until the morning of April 11 that they held a grand opening.
Thresholds Health Board President Peggy Johnson, said she was pleased to see the center come together and appreciated the partners.
“Thresholds Health was born out of a clear need in our community for healthcare rooted in our community,” she said. “We’re here to meet patients where we are.”
Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, having worked with Thresholds for many years on addiction response services, she was pleased to see it branch out into primary care.
“I just want to congratulate you, and if there’s anything [the Chicago Department of Public Health] can do to help you, we will help you,” she said.
Marshal Hatch Jr is co-founder and executive director of one of the organizations Thresholds Health already partnered with – the MAFTA Redemption Project, a West Garfield Park workforce development organization at 22 N. Kildare Ave. He said their organizations ultimately deal with the same set of underlying issues, and it was important for him to offer support.
“I just came here to let you know that we’re in the trenches with you,” Hatch said. “Austin needs it, West Garfield Park needs it, North Lawndale needs it. There is a renaissance on the West Side brewing, and you’re part of it.”
State Rep. Camille Lilly (78th) spoke in her capacity as Loretto Hospital’s Chief External Affairs Officer, saying the hospital was looking forward to working with Thresholds Health.
“We’re excited that you’re here bringing healthcare [to Austin],” she said. “We just want to partner with you and prove basic essentials for people who choose to remain and reside in the community.”
West Side Chamber of Commerce founder Tina Augustus, who runs Elevate Services, an Austin-based marketing firm, said that small businesses would benefit from Thresholds Health.
“Most business owners don’t have health insurance, so having a health center on the West Side is a blessing for the business owners,” she said.