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Sometimes, juggling appointments for your medical and dental care can get hectic. Now imagine doing all of that while experiencing homelessness or poverty. Orange Blossom Family Health first opened its doors in 2006 to serve this population as a service of Health Care Center for the Homeless, which has been serving Central Florida since 1993.
Orange Blossom Family Health aligns with AdventHealth’s philosophy of a whole-care approach by providing a one-stop shop for primary medical care, dental, behavioral health, and substance abuse services. The clinic has five locations in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties with plans for expansion. There are also several mobile units. The clinic also partners with Orange County Public Schools to provide medical services on four campuses.
“Being a community health center, we accept individuals who have Medicaid, Medicare and private insurances. But for uninsured individuals, we offer a sliding fee scale for them based on income, family size and how that compares to our federal poverty guidelines.”
Bakari Burns has served as President and CEO of the clinic since 2003. He says last year, the staff saw more than 18,000 patients. He says the team takes a comprehensive approach in caring for patients that combines aggressive street outreach with integrated systems like case management and patient advocacy. The goal is to create a primary care system instead of utilizing area emergency departments.
Burns says, “We have outreach individuals called our Hope Team who go out into the wooded areas and streets of our community. They find people who are experiencing homelessness, do assessments and then make referrals to the necessary services they need. We often say we go where the grass is browner in the effort to make it green. We’re very aggressive in ensuring all members of our community, especially those who are experiencing homelessness, have access to quality healthcare services.”
AdventHealth has partnered with Orange Blossom Family Health for more than a decade, which began with an ER diversion program. Navigators were placed in emergency departments to instead help refer people to primary care, which was timelier and more appropriate for the treatment they needed. Community health impact funds from AdventHealth also allowed Orange Blossom Family Health to utilize a chronic disease management program. Clinical pharmacists worked with patients to help treat and provide education on chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Work together has continued throughout the years. In 2014, when then-Florida Hospital donated $6 million to the Central Florida community’s Housing First efforts to prioritize the unsheltered getting into housing quickly, Orange Blossom Family Health was a recipient of some of those funds. Their Hope Team was able to rapidly assess who the most vulnerable people living on the street were, and intensive case management was provided once they got into housing. Case managers having fewer clients allowed them to teach people budgeting, home maintenance and even grocery shopping.
Burns says, “We really adopted the thought that housing is health care. We saw when you get someone off the streets and into housing, their health care status almost immediately improves. You see them going to doctor’s appointments, taking their medication and really wanting to do better because now they have a place to call home.”
Knowing that people experiencing homelessness can also suffer with mental health issues or PTSD, AdventHealth helped train Orange Blossom Family Health’s licensed therapists in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR therapy. It is a mental health therapy best known for treating past trauma but is normally only accessible to patients with insurance.
People treated at Orange Blossom Family Health also have a chance to give back. More than half of the clinic’s board of directors are people who have utilized the health center.
Burns says, “That is so patients will always have a voice at the governing body that represents our patients. We are truly patient centered, and we also keep our eyes and ears responsive to the needs of our community.”
It is a community Burns knows well. He graduated from Orange County Public Schools and got his higher education from FAMU. He currently serves as an Orlando city councilmember, representing the district where he grew up. And he says groups working in partnership make Central Florida a better place for all.
“We’re a tried-and-true community that really benefits from the goodness of all of our community members and the willingness to partner and collaborate.”
For more information on Orange Blossom Family Health, go to: Orange Blossom Family Health | Health Care Services (obfh.org)
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