Daughters of Charity: Innovative neighborhood clinics meet patients where they are

Photo Courtesy Ascension DePaul Services

The Daughters of Charity have a tradition steeped in caring for those in need. When the nuns began their health ministry in New Orleans in 1835, they first provided administrative oversight at Charity Hospital; they later founded and operated Hotel Dieu Hospital in 1859.

In 1876, the Daughters of Charity acquired their own facility to provide care for the mentally ill – The Louisiana Retreat for the Feeble Minded, which eventually became DePaul Hospital in Uptown New Orleans. In 1896, the Daughters of Charity began management of what was then known as the Louisiana Leper Home in Carville, Louisiana.

Focus on neighborhoods

Recognizing in the mid-1990s that lack of preventive care was overtaxing local emergency rooms and hospitals were facing a crisis of Medicaid beneficiaries relying on emergency-room services for basic care, the Daughters decided to fill a void for those not being adequately served by the traditional health-care system. Thus, Daughters of Charity Health Centers (DCHC) was born in 1996 with one location on South Carrollton Avenue.

Flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed the center. Through generous and spiritual support from members of the Daughters worldwide and other Catholic organizations, DCHC returned with a Metairie location to provide health-care services sorely needed by the poor and vulnerable as they came home.

Uptown and Bywater DCHC facilities opened next. The March of Dimes provided two mobile units, enabling DCHC to offer prenatal care, and a third mobile unit was purchased through a donation from the Sisters of Mercy.

Today, DCHC operates 10 health centers throughout metro New Orleans and provides care via two medical mobile and two dental mobile units and in 12 schools, serving 55,000 patients annually, said Michael G. Griffin, president/CEO of Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans.

“This makes us the largest community health center in Louisiana,” he said.

The beauty of the centers is that patients establish a relationship with a health-care provider – some for the first time in their lives. The centers provide access to a variety of health-care services, including medical, dental, prenatal, podiatry, vision, behavioral health and pharmacy.

“Our health centers are intentionally located in neighborhoods where our patients can easily visit them,” Griffin said. “Being able to access health care represents a challenge for people in underserved communities. The convenience of our health centers significantly reduces that challenge.”

With an overall philosophy of care to serve the community’s needs, the Daughters of Charity establish community partnerships when a need arises. Delgado Community College petitioned DCHC’s help to enhance mental-health services for students, faculty and staff. Today, with DCHC’s assistance, behavioral-health services are now available four days a week on the college’s main campus. For younger students, DCHC offers health services at 12 local schools.

Saintly name change

To make the public more aware of its 20-year affiliation with Ascension Health system, Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans is changing its name to Ascension DePaul Services. The Daughters of Charity Health Centers will become the DePaul Community Health Centers.

“Our mission to improve the health and well-being of our community remains steadfast and will be strengthened by this new name that ties directly to St. Vincent DePaul’s passion to care for the sick and those living in poverty,” Griffin said.

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