VNA opens Joliet health care clinic to serve underserved residents

VNA Health Care President and CEO Linnea Windel stands with State and local official for the ribbon cutting at the new VNA Health Care facility on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in Joliet.

Joliet — VNA Health Care held the grand opening for its new Joliet clinic on Tuesday and local officials who helped secure funding for the project, including U.S. Representatives Bill Foster and Lauren Underwood, were in attendance.

While VNA has been present in Joliet in a rented facility since 2015, the new facility is owned by the Community Health Center and will allow its operations in the area to increase significantly.

VNA estimates that the 14,000 square foot facility will allow for an additional 5,000 low-income residents to receive treatment in Joliet through its first 30 months of operation.

“Access to health care is an important amenity for everyone, especially for vulnerable communities,” said Mayor Terry D’Arcy. “This beautiful new facility will significantly increase the number of low-income residents we can service, and we value our partnership with VNA.”

The new facility includes 26 exam rooms, two rooms for mental and behavioral health treatment, a nursing station, an on-site laboratory, a kitchen, and a drive-through pharmacy, which are meant to make full-service health care more accessible for patients.

In addition to physical and mental health services, the center will also offer parenting and nutrition classes and the clinic’s Benefits Assistance program can help people who are eligible sign up for Medicare or for marketplace insurance plans.

VNA Health Care facility held a ribbon cutting ceremony for their new local along West Jefferson Street on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in Joliet.

The center, which is located at 1501 W. Jefferson St., is VNA’s 16th facility and was made possible through several sources of government funding, including $1.3 million in Health Resources and Services Administration grant funding from the American Rescue Plan of 2021, $500,000 in federal funding obtained by Foster and Underwood, and an additional $250,000 in state level funding, which was obtained by State Rep. Dagmara Avelar and State Sen. Rachel Ventura.

“Providing high-quality, affordable health care for people who would otherwise experience difficulty obtaining care is central to our purpose, and we are grateful that we are able to expand the reach of our services.”

—  Linnea Windel , VNA president and CEO

“During my time representing this area in Congress, I’ve witnessed first-hand VNA’s commitment to providing high-quality, affordable health care for all,” said Foster. “That’s why I was so proud to secure $500,000 to support their new health care facility in Joliet, which will help fill a vital gap in treatment for so many members of the community.

“When you read about all the budget fighting in Washington, this is what we’re fighting for,” Foster said. “The federal budget is the moral document that allows institutions like this to expand. People who say we cannot afford to provide decent health care in this country aren’t looking at the other side of the coin. We have $140 trillion in wealth in this country and $25 trillion in debt, there’s more than enough money to do that.”

State Representative Dalmara Avelar (D-85) speaks at the VNA Health Care facility ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in Joliet.

VNA President and CEO Linnea Windel noted that the Joliet area is home to over 60,000 low-income residents, but only about 23,000 of them are currently being served by Community Health Centers (also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers) like VNA.

“Providing high-quality, affordable health care for people who would otherwise experience difficulty obtaining care is central to our purpose, and we are grateful that we are able to expand the reach of our services,” Windel said.

In order to make obtaining services easier for residents, VNA accepts patients who are uninsured or undocumented and offers services during evenings and weekends.

They will also accept walk-up patients without an appointment and provide services in multiple languages.

Windel said that most of the facility’s support staff is bilingual in Spanish as well as English and that a translation service is available for patients who speak other languages.

On any given day the facility will be serviced by three doctors and nurse practitioners and 10 support staff, though that number will increase over time.

When the clinic is fully staffed, Windel says that there will be up to ten providers present every day, though that may take three to four years to reach full capacity.

Services provided by the staff regularly will include family medicine, OB/GYN services, pediatrics, psychiatry, case management, and podiatry, which has been added as a focus to treat the high number of diabetic patients in the VNA system.

Other members of VNA’s system-wide staff including doulas, dieticians, and social workers will also be accessible through the Joliet clinic.

“This community has over 60,000 individuals who wouldn’t be served if it weren’t for facilities like this,” said Underwood. “That care needs to be accessible and convenient, and VNA’s truly comprehensive approach is just fantastic. I’m excited about helping improve the health status of so many residents, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”

VNA is the largest Community Health Center in the Chicago area and currently provides care to 75,000 patients.

The new Joliet clinic is part of the organization’s “Growing for Tomorrow” initiative to increase the number of patients in its care to 100,000 in the coming years by obtaining $5 million in funding.