In the News
MGH Team In Texas To Treat Patients Hit By Harvey And By Chronic Health Problems - September 17, 2017 - WGBH News - Boston, MA
September 14, 2017 - Dolores Yanez sat at a long, folding table in the parish center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, savoring a few moments of rest.
Rest had been hard to come by in recent weeks.
Since Hurricane Harvey assaulted the small, rural municipality of Rosenberg two weeks prior with massive flooding along the Brazos River for the second year in a row, she'd filled nearly every waking hour with the task of organizing the relief efforts at the parish.
The community had been blessed with donations, she said, but she feared it wasn't enough.
"We need money," she said. "I think all of it is going to Houston."
As the world rallied around the nation's fourth largest city with the adage "Houston Strong" and watched clips of flooded urban and suburban streets, some of those who experienced catastrophe in the more outlying areas - like Rosenberg - feared that their communities would be overlooked as the region shifts into long-term recovery.
It's a concern echoed by disaster relief experts who have observed the especially difficult challenges of recovery facing vulnerable populations - including those living outside of urban areas.
"People that are the most vulnerable when the sky is blue are even more vulnerable when the sky is gray," said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director for Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness. "So much of the attention tends to go to the highly populated areas."
Areas that are more removed from resources in the city - from health care and education to employment and infrastructure - have a much harder time bouncing back after disaster strikes, Schlegelmilch said.
And in Rosenberg, the vulnerability caused by geography is compounded by poverty and the fact that many of those hardest hit by the floods are Hispanic immigrants or descendants of immigrants.
The majority of Our Lady of Guadalupe's parishioners hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras or are descended from immigrants, Yanez said. Many work as maids, child care providers or construction workers and struggled to make ends meet, even before disaster struck.
"They live paycheck to paycheck," said Elsa Cantu-Cortez, a local Realtor and parishioner helping Yanez run the relief effort.
In Rosenberg, a city of just less than 37,000, roughly one in five residents earned an annual income below the poverty line in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Fifty-one homes and five businesses reported damage from the floods, said city spokeswoman Jenny Pavlovich.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church served as the conduit between relief agencies and the community.
It's a phenomenon that Schlegelmilch observed in many rural communities when he toured parts of Southeast Texas in the hurricane's aftermath. In smaller towns from Rockport to Beaumont, local faith-based and community organizations stepped up to supplement government emergency aid.
"There were encouraging signs," he said. "What I worry more about is long-term recovery." Still, Schlegelmilch estimates that Harvey recovery could take 10 years for some storm victims.
By the second Thursday after the storm, Our Lady of Guadalupe's parish center was relatively calm. A couple dozen teenagers goofed off between volunteer work, and a handful of people sat in folding chairs, waiting for their turn to register with FEMA and Catholic Charities. The Monday before, however, the Salvation Army had served 800 meals to flood victims out of the parish kitchen.
The lull, Yanez speculated, was because so many people were busy cleaning out their flood-damaged homes. On one street in neighboring Richmond, the residents had been so set on mucking out their homes before mold set in that they had been living without running water or usable bathrooms.
"They were living in muck," Cantu-Cortez said, her voice breaking with emotion recalling the living conditions she had seen there.
Rosenberg has gotten some attention from donors hoping to help areas likely to be overlooked as charitable giving descends upon the Greater Houston Area. SCORE International - a global medical mission group - coordinated with the Houston nonprofit San Jose Clinic to set up free medical care for flood victims at Our Lady of Guadalupe church. The volunteer doctor and other medical personnel also set up shop on a porch in one of the devastated Rosenberg communities to give tetanus shots and replace lost prescriptions.
United Sikhs, a United Nations-affiliated international charity, specifically chose Rosenberg as a recipient for a couple truckloads of supplies because the organization seeks to fill gaps in service and reach the "outliers" in disasters, said Gurvinder Singh, the organization's director.
A church in Connecticut adopted Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a city in Alabama adopted the city of Rosenberg, pledging to send supplies.
But the need is difficult to keep up with.
"The needs right now will change next week," Cantu-Cortez said.
Donors have been responsive, but the recovery is daunting.
"Some messages don't get out fast enough," she said.
For many of the homes damaged in Rosenberg during Harvey, it was the second major flooding event in just more than a year. When the Tax Day floods swelled the Brazos River last April, water submerged the low-lying neighborhoods near the banks. Of the 51 homes flooded this year, 18 of them were vacant. Fewer homes were damaged by Harvey simply because they had already been demolished after the Tax Day floods left the city to clean up more than $900,000 worth of damage, said Pavlovich, the city spokeswoman.
But of those who chose to return, many elevated and rebuilt their homes, believing - or at least hoping - that they would be prepared for the next flood.
Angelina Arguello's home on Cumings Road rested on top of several cinder blocks, elevating it a couple of feet off the ground. It was a precaution her adult daughter, Laura Rendon, who lives a few blocks away, had helped her make after the Tax Day floods ravaged the home that their family had moved to from Mexico 30 years before. The flood in 2016 had forced the family to throw away nearly everything, ripping out all of the walls and essentially rebuilding the decades-old home from scratch.
Arguello had just moved back into her home a few days before Harvey hit. In spite of the elevation, 8 inches of water filled the house as record rainfall caused the Brazos River to, again, spill over into the neighborhood.
Rendon's nearby home was also flooded with 5 feet of water for a second time, forcing Rendon, her husband, her grandson and Arguello to evacuate and take refuge with her brother in Needville. After last year's flood, Rendon's family stayed at her brother's home for six months while they rebuilt their house, but this time, she's determined to get back into her own space more quickly - even if that means living in the damaged home as repairs are ongoing. She noted that, because they experienced similar flooding last year, her family was more prepared when Harvey hit. They stacked furniture on tables before the flood and knew how to muck out a home and navigate FEMA aid in the aftermath.
"We got smarter this year," Rendon said. But recovering from flooding is not an experience she wants to continue repeating. After dealing with the devastation two years in a row, Rendon is considering moving away from her home of more than three decades. "I don't think I'm ever going to be comfortable here," she said, tears filling her eyes. "A home is supposed to be a safe place, and it's not."
For now, Rendon and her family are throwing themselves into rehabilitation, but she's not sure how much longer she or her neighbors will stick around if flooding continues to be an issue. "It's going to be a lonely community," she said. "I don't know if they'll want to return."
Rendon said that she had a positive experience receiving aid from FEMA after last year's floods, but she's afraid that - with the far greater scope of Harvey's devastation - this time the help may take much longer to reach her family.
Back at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nidia Ayala hugged her 2-year-old son, Jose Tolentino, on her lap as she waited to meet with a FEMA representative. Her home had taken on nearly 5 feet of water, and she was staying with family, unsure what to do next.
"These people are waiting forever for FEMA," Cantu-Cortez said.
Making the parish center a resource facility for FEMA and other organizations was a decision church leaders had been hesitant about, Yanez said. The church community was eager to open its doors and serve as a resource center for FEMA and global charities, but some also believed that - without the extensive applications and long waiting periods plaguing larger agencies and organizations - the church would be more able to provide direct assistance.
"If we do our own thing, we can cut a lot of red tape," Yanez said. "We're a church. We help everyone."
Yanez's husband, Albert Yanez, a deacon at the parish, led an effort to re-purpose the small building across the street from the church that normally serves as a clothing distribution center into a miniature resource center for Harvey victims. As the donations of cleaning supplies, toiletries and baby items come in, they are sorted and displayed.
"We tell (people), 'Take what you need,'" Albert said. "Whatever comes in, we give it out."
September 13, 2017 - As displaced residents struggle to rebuild their lives and homes, many are facing heightened financial burdens in post-Harvey Houston. Some locals are struggling to afford even basic healthcare.
San José Clinic, a 95-year-old institution that offers affordable healthcare for low-income uninsured patients, is seeking support from the public to help those affected by Harvey.
The institution generally offers medical, dental and pharmaceutical assistance to low-income families. Under ordinary circumstances, they require prospective patients to have a valid form of identification, proof of address, earn less than, or equal to, 250 percent of the federal poverty level and not be eligible for health insurance coverage.
However, given the difficult circumstances resulting from Harvey, they are currently waiving those eligibility requirements and "seeing anyone in need of care."
"We have also waived the patient contributions to remove this burden for the time being," a spokeswoman said.
The Midtown clinic was among the first places to reopen following the devastating flood. It began operating as early as Aug. 31, with the intention of helping those in desperate need of medications and medical services.
"Generosity and compassion are key elements of the San José Clinic mission," Paule Anne Lewis, president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. "It was second-nature for us to open our doors even wider and waive patient fees as we come together to pull through after this trying time. San José Clinic is now here for anyone in our community that finds themselves in a precarious situation and in need of medical, dental, or pharmaceutical care."
"Thousands are now struggling to avoid economic instability after going unpaid for time spent waiting out or recovering from Harvey, including our patients," Lewis explained. "So, even before floodwaters began to recede, San José Clinic was connecting with local authorities and many aid groups to provide the utmost possible support for those who depend on us as well as the wider community."
The clinic is also doubling as a distribution site for donated supplies and is welcoming corporate donations of medical, dental, and pharmaceutical supplies, as well as volunteer bilingual healthcare providers. Americare and Project Hope are onsite with volunteer healthcare providers, as well as others who are distributing their donations and other goods to various sites in need.
For more information or to make a donation, head to: sanjoseclinic.org/harveyrelief
An Update on San José Clinic Relief for Those Impacted by Hurricane Harvey
August 30, 2017 - Hurricane Harvey has had a devastating impact on Houston and the surrounding region. According to several news outlets, floods have forced at least 35,000 people out of their homes into shelters, and tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed in Houston alone. While many Houstonians are blessed to have the resources needed to rebuild their homes, many others are in situations that will remain extremely precarious in the coming weeks and months.
Low-income workers are now struggling to avoid economic instability, as so many go unpaid for time spent waiting out or recovering from the storm. As these workers often live and work paycheck-to-paycheck, any time —let alone several weeks— without income places their families in even greater need of economic help. The need in our community for the comprehensive healthcare services of San José Clinic is now greater than ever.
We have already begun to expand and accelerate our efforts in assisting the local community. As Houston’s original safety-net clinic, we are prepared to help the local underserved, uninsured community in any way we can. In anticipation of the heightened need for our services, we have already collaborated with Americares, Direct Relief, and other corporate partners to provide vital healthcare services in Harvey’s wake. Our partners at Americares will be working on-site at our Clinic to help us to distribute medical supplies to shelters and disaster areas. We expect the first large shipment to arrive this weekend with distribution beginning on Tuesday, September 5. We are also joining forces with other safety-net clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and charity care clinics in the Houston area to ensure our community is adequately served in this time of need.
We re-opened the Clinic this week to provide pharmacy services, primary medical care, emergency dental services, and mental health counseling, as well as our full range of diagnostic services. We have also resumed our regular operating hours in order to continue providing high-quality healthcare to low-income, uninsured people in the most vulnerable corners of Houston.
This week, we have waived eligibility requirements in order to accommodate the loss of identification and other important documents due to the storm. We have also waived patient contributions until further notice, as we realize that many of our patients have lost several critical days of income.
Because of these changes to our procedures in respect of our patients' altered circumstances, we now have an even greater need than usual to fill and will be in need of financial support from the community. Thanks to the support of our community, the Clinic has become a strong organization with the agility to respond to this urgent need. With your support, we will be able to strengthen our community and help Houston’s most vulnerable populations while they rebuild after this natural disaster. Your generosity is most appreciated.
Paule Anne Lewis
President and CEO
San José Clinic begins Hurricane Harvey relief efforts
August 30, 2017 - All of San José Clinic joins me in hoping that you and your loved ones are all safe, dry, and out of danger as the impact of Harvey continues to be felt in the Greater Houston area.
Whether you are dealing with the effects first-hand or are praying for our community from a distance, I want to assure you that San José Clinic has weathered the storm. While many of our staff and volunteers are still unable to reach our doors, the Clinic will be open for limited hours through the rest of this week to assist those in urgent need, working closely with local authorities to provide the utmost assistance we can with the resources we have available.
We will be waiving patient contributions as our community recovers because we recognize the even greater financial burdens that Harvey will put the vulnerable people who depend on San José Clinic. Please consider supporting these patients in need by donating the cost of their care at www.sanjoseclinic.org/harveyrelief
Please keep us in your prayers as we work to restore our full operations, including receiving deliveries of emergency supplies and contacting patients with appointment and medication information. We hope to be back to full capacity on Tuesday, September 5th.
Thank you for supporting the important work which began in 1922 and will continue on because of you. I know our patients can rely on your generosity and compassion.
Paule Anne Lewis
President & CEO
San José Clinic honors Larry Massey and celebrates 95th anniversary at successful 10th annual Art with Heart gala
April 26, 2017 - On Saturday, April 22nd, hundreds of guests gathered to support San José Clinic at the 10th annual Art with Heart event. The event featured a silent auction of more than 200 pieces of museum-quality art, beautiful jewelry, and Big Board packages as well as live auction items focused on direct patient care. Art with Heart 2017 also highlighted the faces and stories of San José Clinic and the work of Brother Cletus in memoriam.
“Art with Heart is always a wonderful opportunity for the healthcare and charitable communities to gather. This was a very special event as we celebrated 10 years of the event and 95 years of San José Clinic serving Houston,” shared Paule Anne Lewis, president and CEO of San José Clinic. “It is always moving to see a room packed full of dedicated supporters and new friends for this exciting evening. We could not imagine a better way to commemorate these very special anniversaries.”
During the program, San José Clinic honored Larry Massey with the Portrait of Compassion in recognition of his many years of support and advocacy. Honorary event chair Dr. Didi Garza shared, “Together with myself and Barb Heilman, Larry masterminded the creation of Art with Heart, which has become the Clinic’s largest fundraiser, raising more than one million dollars in the past ten years.”
“When Didi, Barb, and I dreamed up Art with Heart 10 years ago, we had no idea how much it would grow,” expanded Mr. Massey. “I am so grateful to be a part of the legacy of San José Clinic and Art with Heart.”
This year’s event is still accepting and receiving donations, which go towards providing the underserved of Houston with quality healthcare.
Les Alexander and the Houston Rockets support San José Clinic with historic grant
March 29, 2017 – By providing medical, dental, pharmacy, radiology, and vision care in one convenient location, San José Clinic benefits more than 4,300 uninsured Houstonians each year. Unfortunately, in a city with a population of more than 2 million, located in the nation’s least insured state, there are always more in need. A charity care clinic that has served the local community for 95 years, San José Clinic relies almost entirely on philanthropic funding to aid those without access to care.
In December 2016, Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander announced that he, along with the Clutch City Foundation, would be donating $4 million to a group of charitable organizations in the area, and in March 2017, San José Clinic was announced as one of the recipients of his generosity.
“San José Clinic has been honored to have the support of Mr. Alexander and the Houston Rockets for many years, and we are so excited to expand our partnership,” said Paule Anne Lewis, President and CEO. “It is gratifying to have the Clinic chosen, along with 19 other organizations, from the dozens of applicants.”
In 2015, San José Clinic lost more than $200,000 from funders due to shifts in their funding portfolio, and was more recently informed that another funding partner will be reducing its gift, vital to offsetting operating expenses, by 50%.
“These losses in funding do not decrease the need for the Clinic in our community, particularly in this economic climate,” shared Lewis. “It is encouraging to see that there are funders, such as Mr. Alexander and the Clutch City Foundation, who still believe in the value and place of San José Clinic in our community. Their generosity will help us guarantee that uninsured Houstonians can receive the comprehensive healthcare they need to lead happy, healthy lives.”
The Clutch City Foundation is a 501(c)(3) established in 1995 by Rockets owner Leslie Alexander to provide help, hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be forgotten. Since its inception, the Clutch City Foundation has raised more than $10 million for those who are less fortunate.
Together, San José Clinic, Mr. Leslie Alexander, and the Clutch City Foundation are changing lives by providing quality healthcare and education to those with limited access to such services in an environment which respects the dignity of each person.
San José Clinic joins TMC, partners with CHI - Texas Catholic Herald
February 14, 2017 - San José Clinic has joined the Texas Medical Center (TMC) as its newest member institution.
“The San José Clinic’s mission to provide quality healthcare and education to those with limited access to such services is complementary to the mission and goals of the TMC and its member institutions,” said Dr. Robert C. Robbins, president and CEO of TMC. “We look forward to a strong and enduring relationship that will benefit the Clinic, the TMC community and the larger populace we serve.”
San José Clinic, the original safety-net clinic in Houston, has steadfastly grown into a leading provider of healthcare services for individuals and families in the Greater Houston area who struggle the most with accessing care since it was founded in 1922.
“We’re honored to join the prestigious Texas Medical Center as its newest member institution,” said Paule Anne Lewis, president and CEO of San José Clinic. “As the only multidisciplinary clinic in Houston that exclusively serves the uninsured and underserved, San José Clinic works to ensure that those who face economic and social challenges are not denied the right to quality healthcare. We are grateful that Dr. Robbins and the TMC leadership as a whole recognize the clinic’s contributions to, value for, and vital place within our healthcare system.”
The clinic’s decades of growth have been supported by partners, including every major healthcare system in the TMC, coming together to better serve Houston’s growing community. Each year, more than 800 volunteers from professional, academic, and public groups join the clinic staff, of less than 50, to deliver patient care and support.
By officially joining the TMC, San José Clinic will continue to strengthen and expand these partnerships to further its mission and impact. Through this opportunity, the clinic will also be able to further grow services and volunteer base to expand capacity and better serve patients’ needs.
“San José Clinic serves an invaluable role in providing medical and dental care to families and those underserved who are oftentimes in the margins in today’s society,” said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. “The medical center is gaining a member with more than 90 years of history in serving our community — not only as an active healthcare institution but as a vital ministry of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration for the benefit of those we serve.”
In addition, the clinic has partnered with CHI St. Luke’s Health–Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center (CHI), which had established a transitional care clinic (TCC) for its post-discharge congestive heart failure (CHF) patients to make sure they had consistent follow-up care, education and counseling.
CHI approached the clinic in 2014 after it was having difficulty finding appropriate ongoing care for uninsured CHF patients, who number a few dozen in any given year and are at high risk for readmission if not carefully monitored. The two organizations already had a working relationship, and the clinic had capacity to accommodate the patient population. San José Clinic sought to create a medical home for comprehensive care management for these patients.
“San José Clinic has collaborated with CHI St. Luke’s Health since they initially came into Houston three years ago,” Lewis said. “This partnership is a wonderful way for the Clinic to continue to fulfill our mission by providing quality healthcare to those in need.” The overall goal of the partnership was to create a care transition program to coordinate care for these patients and give them a stable source of ongoing monitoring and follow-up treatment.
Specific goals of the partnership included to develop co-management strategy for heart failure in the uninsured population, subsidize care during the transition period from post-acute care to a community setting and provide a stable primary care–based medical home for patients.
CHI paid for each patient’s initial visits to San José Clinic to offset the upfront costs of establishing the patient relationship (e.g., lab work, consultations). Patients were referred to the clinic after an initial meeting with a TCC team member to explain the partnership with San José Clinic and its role as the patient’s medical home.
The program was beneficial to all parties involved. For patients, the partnership improved health and access to additional services. For CHI, the partnership provided cost savings due to reduction in uninsured CHF admissions and readmissions. The partnership also gave the clinic compensation for delivery of services during the patient’s transition period.
January 12, 2017 - For nearly a century, the San José Clinic has been providing a health care home to the underserved population of Houston and its surrounding areas. Since 1922, the clinic has been able to provide high-quality care to its patients through strong volunteer support—23,000 volunteer hours are logged each year—as well as through partnerships with a number of Texas Medical Center member institutions. TMC recently further strengthened its relationship with the San José Clinic by making it an official member of the medical center.
“The San José Clinic’s mission to provide quality health care and education to those with limited access to such services is complementary to the mission and goals of the Texas Medical Center and its member institutions,” said Robert C. Robbins, M.D., president and CEO of Texas Medical Center. “We look forward to a strong and enduring relationship that will benefit the Clinic, the Texas Medical Center community and the larger populace we serve.”
Annually, the clinic serves over 4,000 uninsured patients, providing primary and specialty care, optometry, dental care, cancer screenings, mental health services, lab and diagnostic testing, and access to an onsite Class A pharmacy.
“We have been collaborating with several of the institutions in the Texas Medical Center for years,” said Paule Anne Lewis, president and CEO of the San José Clinic. “Our partnerships are mutually beneficial. We are able to offer a wider range of care to our patients because of the specialties our partners offer, and we also help to keep our uninsured patients out of the emergency room and help keep them healthier over all.”
Many of the San José Clinic’s patients face a variety of issues that make accessing medical care difficult, including language, education, transportation and financial barriers.
“By bringing the resources from the medical center here to our clinic, the setting that is most appropriate for our patients, it helps us to manage those social determinants of health and address their clinical needs,” Lewis said.
The TMC has partnered with the San José Clinic on programs including its annual Art with Heart fundraising gala, which last year was hosted at TMCx. Denise Castillo-Rhodes, TMC executive vice president and chief financial officer, supported the clinic’s inclusion as a member.
“Almost a century ago, the Texas Medical Center legacy began with the admittance of its first patient to the first hospital in what would become the world’s largest medical complex. At the same time not too far down the road, a little known clinic was formed with a $50 donation for the purpose of providing health care access for those with limited access,” said Denise Castillo-Rhodes, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Texas Medical Center, as well as a volunteer for the San José Clinic. “The San Jose Clinic serves a very important role in our community. Thus, it is a natural next step for the San Jose Clinic to join the Texas Medical Center as its newest member, as it continues to grow and provide extraordinary health care and education at affordable prices.”
In the future, as an official member of the TMC, Lewis plans to expand the San José Clinic’s partnerships throughout the medical center and to continue offering the best possible health care for their patients.
“We are really grateful to the TMC leadership and the organization as a whole for recognizing our contributions and the role we play in taking care of the patient population here in Houston,” Lewis said. “We currently have students from 12 Texas Medical Center institutions making rounds in our clinic and I can’t wait to see how this partnership of us being a TMC member institution will further our volunteer and partnership base.”