Column: Heartland ‘truly a health center for the entire community’ – Lawrence Journal-World

photo by: Mike Yoder

Julie Branstrom, chief development officer at Heartland Community Health Center, gives a tour of the center’s new facility at 1312 W. Sixth St.


When I was asked eight months ago to step in and manage a capital campaign and this building project for Heartland, I was equal parts nervous and excited. Though I’ve only worked for Heartland since August of 2020, the importance of this project was not lost on me. This facility has been a long time coming and will truly allow Heartland’s staff to deliver quality health care to more people in our community.

Heartland’s origin story began in the late 1990s, when a physician and a group of local pastors transformed a small Sunday school classroom in the basement of a church into an exam room for the uninsured in Lawrence. We’ve come a long way since that time, receiving the designation of Federally Qualified Health Center in 2012. Since then, Heartland has continued to adapt and grow to meet the increasing needs for primary, dental, and behavioral health care in our community. Mergers and acquisitions with Health Care Access, Douglas County Dental Clinic, and most recently Panda Pediatrics have all contributed to the depth of services Heartland can offer to patients.

Heartland’s mission is simple; to welcome all who need care. We are committed to ensuring that everyone has the same access to services regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Heartland accepts most commercial insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, and offers a sliding fee scale based on income, which helps ensure everyone has access to the same high-quality health care. We are truly a health center for the entire community. On numerous occasions, I’ve heard people say that they thought Heartland was only for people without insurance or who met certain income guidelines. This is not the case. When individuals who have commercial insurance choose to become patients at the health center, it allows Heartland to serve more people without insurance. It’s health care that gives back and is an act of service to your neighbors.

Our new facility features 36 primary care exam rooms, 14 dental treatment rooms, six behavioral health rooms, a lab, and a fully stocked food pantry called the Care Cupboard, which is a collaboration between Heartland, Just Food and Harvesters. We will also open our new pharmacy, which will offer the convenience of a drive-thru window, early in 2022.

Community health centers are designed to address the fragmentation that exists in health care by offering a broad array of primary and preventive care services, including screening, diagnosis and management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, heart and lung disease, depression, cancer and HIV/AIDS. The momentum of this move to our new facility will propel Heartland into a new era of health care delivery. We will continue to be creative problem solvers and will always keep patients at the center of what we do.

As we prepare to throw the doors of this new state-of-the-art health facility wide open to our community, I can speak for many of us who work at Heartland that we are full of gratitude for the many people who have helped us get here. There are too many to name, but they know who they are.

-Julie Branstrom is the chief development officer for Heartland Community Health Center and previously served as the dxecutive director for the Douglas County Dental Clinic for 15 years.

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