Lurie Children’s Hospital held its first public forum in Austin recently to get input from local residents about a new community hub it plans to open on the West Side.
Austin Weekly News previously reported the hospital is looking to create a community hub with Stone Community Development Corp. that will focus on mental and behavioral health services for West Side youth.
About 40 people gathered April 12 at Lively Stone Church including 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts and state Rep. Camille Lilly.
The hub’s location has not yet been determined, but Lurie is considering a site next to the Lively Stone Church or somewhere along Chicago Avenue, said Pastor Contrell Jenkins, who founded Stone Community Development Corp. with his father in 2018.
“We hope to have more definitive answers within the next 30 days or so,” Jenkins said.
Gregory Ramón Design Studio and TnS Studio will be designing the community hub. So far, components planned include outdoor spaces, a public café and a clinic area. It will be about 15,000 square feet, with 5,000 square feet for Stone CDC and 10,000 square feet for Lurie Children’s services, said Taylor Staten of TnS Studio.
The plan is to offer specialty services that range from asthma treatment to respite care. Lurie Children’s is conducting a survey to determine what services people would like provided. Residents are encouraged to complete the survey online.
“Lurie Children’s is not interested in duplicating any services that are already here,” Staten said. “They’re not trying to recreate anything that is already working. They’re here to fill in the gap.”
Mary Kate Daley of Lurie Children’s said she estimates the hub could serve 5,000 to 7,000 patients a year.
Community involvement is at the “heart of what we are doing here,” said Aisha Oliver, Lurie Children’s community engagement specialist and an Austin community organizer. She wants organizations to partner with them and for residents to give input and feedback throughout the process.
“Before we even get to that point of breaking ground on anything there should be relationships built already,” Oliver said.
Some residents expressed concern about long-term community engagement and cultural competency.
Lurie Children’s CEO Tom Shanley said employment opportunities will be available for Austin residents at the West Side location as well as their downtown hospital in Streeterville. He wants residents to “hold us accountable” and plans to create a community advisory board so feedback can continue after the hub is built.
Oliver said she wants to create a “little medical school” on the West Side by creating a pipeline for West Side youth to work in healthcare careers.
“We should have more Black and Brown doctors, nurses and other career paths for our young people in the healthcare systems,” Oliver said.