Partnership brings hope for better health to public housing residents

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The community room at Chouteau Courts is buzzing.

"I'm just so excited. It's like 'wow'," said Brigette Smith, a resident of the public housing complex.

Smith is excited about the prospect of better health. Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center has come to the complex offering breakfast and health screenings. This isn't a one-time event. Someone from the health center will be there four days a week providing health education and access to care.

"We want to be here consistently and letting them know we are here to support them in any way we can," said Robbie Joe Hughes, outreach health educator for the health center.

A grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City created the partnership of Samuel U. Rodgers, Truman Medical Centers and the Kansas City Housing Authority. Residents of Chouteau Courts and Riverview Gardens will get help with everything from dental and mental health to common chronic diseases.

"Diabetic, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and all these things need constant attention," said Beverly Bailey, referring to her health conditions.

Dozens of appointments at the health center have already been scheduled with transportation included. That's important to Bailey who doesn't have a car.

"This is absolutely wonderful. It's a walk across the street," she said.

One goal? To keep residents out of the emergency room.

"Which drives up Medicaid costs or they don't go at all and then they're admitted to the hospital extremely ill," said Hughes.

Another goal is to enable people to move out of public housing. Smith says she moved in after losing her job because of back problems. She thinks she'll get effective treatment now.

"Get everything so I can get a job, because I do want to work and I do want to move out of Chouteau," said Smith.

The program continues through next January, but if it goes well, it might be extended and also expanded to more Kansas City public housing complexes.

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