Q&A: Heartland Community Health Center provider talks integrated care, COVID and more – Lawrence Journal-World

photo by: Mike Yoder

The new Heartland Community Health Center facility is located at 1312 W. Sixth St.

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Lisa Russell, a primary care provider in family medicine, has been practicing at Heartland Community Health Center since 2015. In addition to being a primary care provider, she is also the family medicine lead and oversees all clinical operations in family medicine. She has a doctor of nursing practice degree from Wichita State University.

Russell answered a few questions about Heartland’s new facility:

Q: What makes Heartland different from other providers in Douglas County? 

A: Heartland is different from other providers in the area because we offer wrap-around services under the same roof. We offer different service lines, but care is not fragmented. Primary care can collaborate with dental, pediatrics, etc., to provide the most comprehensive care possible. We offer medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders. Patients can have lab work done in-house. We offer Medicaid eligibility assistance. We also have a pharmacy that allows us to provide affordable medications to our patients, especially our uninsured population. We also have a food pantry to support those with food insecurity.

Q: Heartland’s new center will focus on integrated health care. What does integrated care mean? 

A: Integrated care is the blending of primary care and behavioral health. Many people with behavioral health problems present first to primary care, and we know that social needs often lead to behavioral issues. Complex patients need more support than what the traditional care model offers. We employ behavioral health consultants (BHCs) who are clinical social workers. BHCs are a part of our care teams, and patients are often seen jointly by primary care and behavioral health. BHCs are also available for more long-term counseling services. In addition, we have psychiatry in-house.

As an example, I saw a teenager who had been without her antidepressants due to loss of insurance. She presented to me with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I assessed her and started medication, and our BHC worked alongside the patient and her mother to develop a safety plan and schedule her with Bert Nash for crisis intervention and intensive outpatient therapy. We were also able to help her regain her insurance coverage. This was all accomplished during the primary care visit, and she did not have to go to the ER or have inpatient care. I saw her for follow up about two weeks later and she was doing great.

Q: How will the new facility affect the integrated care patients receive? 

A: The new facility was designed to have a much more integrated-care-friendly setup, as primary care teams are in pods along with a BHC. This means the BHCs will be able to be more involved in pre-visit planning and will be closer by when needed for consultation or brief intervention. There are also more private rooms available for BHCs to meet with patients.

Q: Aside from being in a new building, how will the new health center be different from the current health center? 

A: We will be able to have most of our service lines and our administration in the same building for the first time. This allows for greater collaboration between primary care, dental, mental health, etc. We will also have a drive-thru pharmacy on site. The new facility is state-of-the-art. This is important because we always want our patients to feel dignified, and this building reflects the high-quality care provided. Our new facility is right at the corner of Sixth and Michigan and is much more visible to the community.

Q: “Welcoming all who need care” is the mission of Heartland Community Health Center. What does that mean? 

A: We are honored to care for any member of the community seeking health care. We are open to everyone regardless of insurance coverage, socioeconomic status, and other factors that create a barrier to receiving care. Heartland is inclusive, and patients from all walks of life come through our doors.

Q: Heartland is a nonprofit safety-net clinic and doesn’t turn away patients who are unable to pay. Why is it also a good option for people with commercial insurance?

A: When insured patients receive care at Heartland, they allow us to provide care to uninsured patients. Insurance truly goes further at Heartland. Last year we provided over $2 million in charitable care, much of which is the result of the generosity of our insured population. Any of our patients can access all service lines, so those with insurance can benefit from our collaborative and integrated model of care. I have had many patients over the years come to us when they lose insurance, and when they regain coverage, they choose to stay with Heartland.

Q: Heartland was one of the first providers in Lawrence to offer the COVID-19 vaccine. What is Heartland doing now to address the pandemic? 

A: Heartland tackled COVID-19 head on, and we continue to do so. We offer curbside respiratory evaluation and COVID testing; patients don’t even need to leave their car. We continue to offer COVID vaccines both on site, and we have robust outreach efforts. We also worked with the county to offer equity clinics, so that we could vaccinate patients with barriers that would likely keep them from accessing a vaccine otherwise.

Q: What is your favorite thing about working for Heartland?

A: Nothing makes me happier than seeing my patients’ health improve and for them to lead higher-quality lives. This is accomplished by a team of caring, hardworking staff members who truly care about our community. It is an honor to be able to care for people in my hometown, and I know Heartland delivers on its mission.

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