UI Health leads collaborative to bring more health care services to Southwest Side neighborhoods

With approval from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees to purchase a recently closed clinical building at 5525 S. Pulaski Road, the University of Illinois Chicago and its health care system, UI Health, will move forward with plans to increase access to comprehensive health care in Chicago’s Gage Park and West Elsdon communities.

The university’s purchase of the building is a key step for a new collaborative of local providers, funded by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, that will seek to improve care delivery and health in these neighborhoods.

“Transforming the Gage Park/West Elsdon Community Through Partnership,” the T.A.R.G.E.T. Health Collaborative Partnership, is the recipient of a $15 million Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives award. The collaborative brings together several partners to provide specialty care and advanced diagnostic, mental health and women’s wellness services to the Southwest Side neighborhoods.

The collaborative, led by UI Health, will use the funds to renovate and expand the facility, which previously was operated by Mercy Medical Center.

The new clinic will restore previously offered services at the site as well as introduce new clinical services to the community, said UIC’s Dr. Heather Prendergast, one of the collaborative’s leaders.  

The facility will help the collaborative meet the health care demands in the community, where residents experience disproportionately high rates of diabetes, heart disease, adult and childhood obesity, cancer, and pregnancy risk factors.  

“The overarching goal of this proposal is to provide enhanced access to specialty care, state-of-the-art advanced diagnostics, much-needed behavioral health and mental health resources, and a women’s wellness center all within the Gage Park and West Elsdon community in order to improve the health outcomes in this community,” said Prendergast, associate dean of clinical affairs at the College of Medicine and emergency room physician at UI Health, which includes the only state-funded hospital in Chicago. “Together, the providers in the T.A.R.G.E.T. Health Collaborative hope to improve health care outcomes, reduce health care disparities and realign resources in distressed communities throughout Illinois.”  

“UI Health continues to build upon our momentum to improve the health and wellness of our local communities,” said UIC Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. Robert Barish. “This collaborative endeavor showcases how an academic health enterprise can align the specialists and resources needed to address the health challenges that face our communities. We saw this opportunity and knew that UIC’s academic health enterprise could harness the services and expertise needed for this new clinic.” 

The health care services planned for the clinic will be rolled out in phases, beginning later this fall.

In addition to covering the purchase and renovations of the existing facility, the $15 million transformation award also will cover the purchase of advanced diagnostic and other medical equipment.

“One of our primary objectives in the Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives initiative is to increase access to critical, quality care and bring about better health outcomes in communities across Illinois,” Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Theresa Eagleson said. “This collaborative’s plans for offering care for at-risk individuals, behavioral health resources and women’s health resources in a community where there is great need align with our goals of reducing disparities in health care and addressing social and structural determinants of health.”

UI Health doctors will lead in providing high-quality specialty care at the new clinic. 

Other partners in the collaborative include three federally qualified health centers: Alivio Medical Center, Friend Family Health Center and UI Health Mile Square Health Center. Alivio, a bilingual and bicultural center, will support obstetrics and gynecology care. Friend Family will provide behavioral health, mental health and urgent care services. Mile Square will provide dental care.

The collaborative also includes the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences, which will provide physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nutrition services, and the UIC Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships, which supports community engagement and oversees an integrated care coordination model to help address social determinants of health.

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