(pictured above: LaShun Huntley shows Sen. Burr around the center.)
Southside United Health Center received a visitor who wanted to see first-hand how they do things.
On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) toured the center, which is located on Waughtown Street and exists to serve the “medically-underserved.”
“They are doing great. This is the model of what health care has to look like in the future,” said Burr, who lives in Winston-Salem. “I would love to see every community health center doubled in size.”
HHS is the same agency making $300 million available, via the Affordable Care Act, to community health centers across the nation to help them “expand service hours, hire more medical providers, and add oral health, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services.”
Burr voted against the ACA in 2010 and said Tuesday he still doesn’t support the law.
“When it comes to the ACA, I think there were easier ways to do it, less expensive ways to do it, but more importantly, I think there were more effective ways to do it.”
After the ACA was enacted, several states, North Carolina among them, refused to expand Medicaid to allow poor residents to receive coverage.
“I don’t think you expand something that’s broken,” Burr said. “Inherently, I am against the expansion of Medicaid until you fix it.”
Burr said that once the system is fixed, there can be a debate about how far to expand Medicaid and who should be covered.
“I don’t believe in America that there should be anything for free. I think everybody should have some skin in the game. This (Southside UHC) is a tremendous model of how it is done right,” Burr said.
Southside United Health Center served 4,000 patients in 2013. In addition to accepting Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, the center treats uninsured patients on a sliding-fee scale based on a patient’s ability to pay. Southside’s patient base includes everyone from pregnant women to the elderly.
In 2012, the center achieved Federally Qualified Health Center status, which among other things, provided the means to hire a quality medical staff. The center’s executive staff and its medical director, Dr. Richard Lord, partner with community health, education and human service agencies to treat and educate residents.
“We have to get people a medical home,” Burr said. “This center serves as the medical home for 4,000 people. A medical home gets people well, it takes care of people and does preventative care. I think that is how the patients here look at Southside.”
LaShun Huntley, Southside UHC’s chief executive officer, said the center is looking to expand.
“We would love a bigger building where we could add dental, behavioral health and a pharmacy in one building. That way, when a patient comes in he or she can receive all those services at one time,” he said.
Burr gave Huntley advice on connecting with medical professionals, securing land and permanent buildings, bringing in more patients, motivating employees and grant writing. He also told Huntley and the staff to never think that they have reached their full potential.
Huntley said he appreciated Burr’s visit and advice.
“It was important to us to find out what his vision for Southside is and finding out where he would like to see us grow,” he said. “We wanted to see it line up with our vision. It is always important to hear other people’s perspective, especially since he is a big supporter of community health centers.”
Southside United Health Center is located at 3009 Waughtown St. Learn more at www.southsideunitedhealth.org or by calling 336-293-8728, ext. 110.