Catholic Services of Acadiana, in a cherished partnership with Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, and with the generous support of the Pinhook Foundation, is excited to announce the beginning of New Life Health Services. The successful efforts of Lourdes’ St. Bernadette Clinic, which provides non-emergency medical care to the homeless and the poor at no charge, inspired this new endeavor. At St. Bernadette Clinic, services are coordinated to provide chronic care, follow-up care of other illnesses and healthcare problems, dental care, eye care referrals, community pharmacy referrals for medication assistance and resources for other needs. New Life Health Services is modeled after these services.
Women and children who take refuge at CSA’s New Life Center in Opelousas often arrive with nothing at all—no ID, medications, and healthcare coverage of any kind. With the closest free medical care nearly thirty miles away in Lafayette, and limited transportation options, financial and physical access to basic health services often seems impossible for the shelter’s one hundred plus residents.
In addition to transportation and costs, a major barrier to healthcare for residents at New Life Center is rooted in the reality that many women and children who grew up in poverty may have not had the opportunity to regularly visit a doctor’s office. When struggling to find food, clothing, and shelter on a daily basis, taking proactive measures to manage health loses priority to more urgent needs. The medical system can be intimidating and difficult to navigate, especially for those who have not been exposed to it before. “It takes time to earn a patient’s trust before they feel comfortable approaching you with their medical concerns,” explains Bridget Waldrup-Simpson, Interim Supervisor at St. Bernadette Clinic.
Fortunately, community leaders from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center and Foundation and the Pinhook Foundation recognized these barriers and committed themselves to creating a solution. It was critical that together, we develop an avenue to bring health services to NLC residents.
The New Life Health Services began in December 2015 with in-house medical care offered by St. Bernadette Health Clinic’s staff. A dedicated space for these services is complete with a waiting room, two exam rooms, and all of the supplies necessary to offer basic health services. The women and children at New Life Center, whether uninsured or under-insured, are now able to access immunizations, breast exams, and initial screenings for high blood pressure and tuberculosis. They can also access vision and dental consultations. The second phase of services that will be offered at the Health Center in the coming months will add gynecological care services including HIV, STD, and pregnancy testing.
“Our Lady of Lourdes has immeasurable benefits for the health and wellbeing of the homeless people we serve,” states Michelle Hinman, Director of Client Services at CSA. “Whether it’s providing a healthy meal at the Diner, or health care at St. Bernadette’s and now the health services at New Life Center; we couldn’t do it without Lourdes.”