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Some of the first grants made by VNA Foundation were in support of primary care and chronic care to the medically underserved—such as the care provided by free clinics. One free clinic we are pleased to have supported many times is CommunityHealth (CH), which started as a small outpost in the back of an optometrist’s office and grew into the largest free clinic in the nation. Initial VNA grants to CH funded key nurses and nurse managers, and recent grants supported the clinic’s comprehensive services including dental care, medications and vaccinations, and basic social service and mental health programming. CommunityHealth patients must be uninsured with incomes less than 250% of the Federal Poverty Level, and last year the clinic provided over 12,000 free medical visits.
Another primary/chronic care grantee is Connections for the Homeless. Although based in Evanston, Connections serves homeless persons from around Chicago and the northern suburbs. VNA has provided periodic support to its onsite health program since its launch 20+ years ago, and seen it through many models and staffing patterns. In its current iteration, the Health & Wellness Program is staffed by a Community Nurse and Behavioral Health Specialist, and each year provides free physical and mental health services to 300+ people experiencing homelessness. The program helps reduce reliance on emergency care, improve health education and literacy, support connections to primary care providers, and improve health stability through prescription management, care coordination, and transportation to follow-up appointments.