“I tell people that the letter ‘I’ in Indianapolis stands for ‘innovation.’ This may look like a small idea, but it’s a big idea.”
The big idea to which Jane Pauley refers is the eastside Indianapolis health center that bears her name. Pauley, an eastside native best known as an anchor for NBC’s “Today” and “Dateline” programs, visited Indianapolis to help cut the ribbon and open The Jane Pauley Community Health Center, operated by Community Health Network in space donated by the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township.
“This is the story of a partnership of a group of people who recognized that there’s a need for health care,” Bryan Mills, Community’s president and CEO, told the crowd of more than 200 who gathered September 23 for the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is an example of what we believe others can do; it’s something we hope people can replicate.”
The model to which Pauley and Mills refer is a clinic that provides holistic care—including wellness, medical, mental health, dental and social services—regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Though it’s located within Warren Township’s Renaissance School, it serves not only students and their families but the entire eastside community. “This is the nexus of the two things most important to me: health care for underserved people, and public education,” Pauley told the gathering.
“The focus of this community health center is primary health care,” Robin Ledyard, M.D., president of Community Hospital East and one of the center’s creators, told ribbon-cutting attendees. “Primary health care meets about 80 percent of people’s needs. This is access for the public where they need it, not in the ER, where that care can become confusing and expensive.”
Also speaking was Jeff Bennett, Warren Township trustee. He hailed the center’s progressive integration of health services, and added that it also will provide access to a wide range of social services, including food stamps and heating assistance. “We want this to be a front door to getting these services.”
Peggy Hinckley, Ph.D., superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, is a strong believer in the importance of meeting the health care needs of students. “Warren Township is very focused on closing the achievement gap,” she says. “Children are better learners and can focus on their work when they feel well.”
Indeed, says Pauley, good health care services are essential just to keep kids in school learning, rather than at home sick. As an example, she points to asthma as one of the most common chronic ailments facing children. Citing Children’s Health Fund studies, Pauley says a child getting regular treatment for asthma misses an average of seven fewer days of school each year than a child whose asthma is not well controlled. Plus, “for every child who gets proper treatment for chronic asthma, $4,500 is saved annually.”
Health care costs are a major stressor for many families, observes Art Bouvier, who owns the Papa Roux restaurant two miles south of the center and serves on the center’s advisory board. As a small-business owner, he’s been unable to get adequate insurance for his family, so he plans to take them to the center for their primary health care needs. For those who are uninsured or underinsured, “you spend a lot of time wondering how bad is bad enough to get medical attention.”
At the ribbon cutting, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard praised the spirit of partnership that is behind this kind of project. “We are all extremely fortunate to be in a city in which great generosity toward each other is the norm,” he says, calling the center “a place of hope.”
Mills said it offers an example of what people in the community can do when they decide to solve a problem rather than waiting for someone else to provide the solution. “This is us saying, ‘we can do this on our own.’”
Added Dr. Hinckley, “See what happens when well-intentioned people with caring hearts come together with an idea?”
For Pauley, joining in the partnership offers the chance to draw attention to the needs of the underserved, as well as cutting-edge ways to meet those needs. As for having her name attached to a project that tackles an issue so important to her—“there probably hasn’t been a bigger honor afforded me in my lifetime.”