Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States with a population of approximately 2,100,000. Houston is in Harris County which has a population of approximately 4,093,000. Houston and Harris County have experienced rapid population growth over the last 10 years, at 14.4% and 20.3%, respectively. Harris County has a diverse population. Hispanics constitute approximately 40% of the population, followed by non-Hispanic Whites (33%), Blacks (29%) and Asians (6%). Approximately 17% of the Harris County population lives below the poverty level and approximately 30% of the county population is uninsured. Therefore, although Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, almost a third of our citizens do not have the insurance or personal funds to access services outside the safety net providers.
Harris County hosts a broad range of local non-profit organizations and government agencies that share a common mission of delivering health care to the underserved. Safety net clinics are non-profit, community-based providers that offer health services to low income people, including those without insurance. Primary care services provided by the safety net clinics include urgent care, acute and chronic disease treatment, mental health, dental, preventive and well child care. Our Gulf Coast community is subject to the hurricanes and the social and economic devastation they bring. The Harris County Healthcare Alliance formed in 2006 to meet the needs of a sudden influx of underserved residents after Hurricane Katrina. SLEHC engages continuously with safety net providers and works to build the collaborative capacity of this group.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
In 2004 Houston community leaders identified problems with access to medical care for low-income persons. They moved forward to identify under/uninsured people and map their locations. They later added safety net clinic locations to this map. Superimposing these types of information provided health planners information for locating new safety net clinics. In 2006, the Harris County Healthcare Alliance was formed. This broad-based group of health care providers in Houston and surrounding areas was formed to address the sudden influx of persons in need of healthcare following Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities (SLEHC) launched Projects Safety Net, the nation’s first interactive, bilingual and mappable web-site serving as a link between the underserved in the Houston community and the clinics and organizations that offer healthcare to them and their families. Project Safety Net was born from and endorsed by the Houston/Harris County Public Health Council’s Clinic Committee and developed by a team from SLEHC led by SLEHC’s Executive Director, Dr. Patricia Gail Bray. Project Safety Net was inaugurated during an April ceremony attended by the leaders from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and the President of St. Luke Episcopal Health System. President George H.W. Bush was present and praised PSN “an example that something good can come of a tragedy.” Project Safety Net was a product of Dr. Bray’s commitments to research that actively informs planning and to helping people find hope through affordable health care