FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and late entry into prenatal care are just some of the disparities impacting a Fort Pierce community. But on Tuesday a new health center has plans to close gaps and provide access.
The City of Fort Pierce’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, a once a thriving center for Treasure Coast Blacks is visibly making a comeback. But longtime residents William Gibson and Erik Hurst say while the neighborhood boasts of some amenities, access to others is still missing.
”Access to healthcare is very important. You won’t have to go to Port St. Lucie or Vero Beach,” said Gibson. “It’s needed right here.”
And the lack of access to healthcare, has resulted in poorer life expectancy outcomes in the first and second years of life, and Type 2 diabetes and hypertension amongst younger people of color according to Wilhelmina Lewis, MD, Florida Community Health Centers, Inc. president and CEO.
“We’re seeing people with Type 2 diabetes in their teens, in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and so that winds up creating issues in their long-term outcomes,” Dr. Lewis said. “They wind up having kidney disease, heart attacks, strokes and all of those things mean a shorter length of life.”
On Aug. 2 Florida Community Health Center Lincoln Park officially opened its doors. It’s the result of a partnership between Community Health and In the Image of Christ, Inc., a community-based non-profit.
”It’s better to prevent a disease than to try to cure a disease,” said Pastor Hazel Hoylman, In the Image of Christ, Inc. executive director. ”Where you are today does not mean that’s where you’re going to be 10 years from now. So we have hope.”
The center provides both adult and pediatric primary care services, immunizations, prenatal care, health screenings, and prescriptions.
”Whether they have insurance or not,” Dr. Lewis said.
Using a “sliding fee scale” clients pay based on their household income. A visit with a clinician would typically cost $20.
City commissioner Curtis Johnson who was raised in the neighbor says the center will have a ripple effect.
“This will have such an impact in this community,” Johnson said. “This directly addresses health disparities. It was said but it’s actually done now.”
Florida Community Health Center Lincoln Park will see first patients Tuesday morning. The site also offers free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. To learn more call 772-448-8496.