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--- Issued April 24, 1010

Local and state dignitaries attended the open house Wednesday, April 21, for the Erie Housing Authority’s new health care clinic. More than 100 people from Erie and the state attended the event.

The clinic is operated by the Multi-Cultural Health Evaluation Delivery System (MHEDS) at the Authority’s Marsha Ann Hall Learning Center, 1841 East 18th Street, in the Harbor Homes public housing community.

Among those attending the open house were a number of officials from the Office of Public Housing of the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including Jacqueline Molinaro-Thompson, Division Director; Sharon Scott, Public Housing Revitalization Specialist; and Nanette Livadas, Program Analyst.

Attending from the Meadville office of HUD was Marcia Yohe, Public Housing Revitalization Specialist.

Among local officials attending were Barry Grossman, Erie County Executive; Erie Mayor Joseph Sinnott; Patricia Norcott, Senator Jane Earll’s Chief of Staff; and Caitlin O’Connor, a legislative aide representing U.S. Senator Arlen Specter.

Molinaro-Thompson, representing HUD, said the Erie Housing Authority is far “ahead of the curve” both statewide and nationally in providing services such as the new health care clinic. “You are a model for all of us,” she said, “and I am honored to be here.” She said the Erie Housing Authority has gone from dealing mainly with bricks and mortar public housing, to caring for the people who live in that housing. “For the Erie Housing Authority, it really is all about people,” she said, echoing the Authority’s motto.

Molinaro-Thompson said that in her eyes, what the Authority is doing to help people, especially in the area of health care, is worthy of attention from the White House. “I am serious about this,” she said after the open house. “We will do our best to bring this facility and the Erie Housing Authority’s work to the attention of President Obama.”

Grossman praised John Horan, executive director of the Authority, for doing what was necessary to facilitate the clinic, saying Horan and the Authority’s attitude of caring for those in need rather than casting them aside for selfish or political interests as marks so much of today’s divisive politics.

Sinnott said that the Erie Housing Authority is a model for all other authorities in the City of Erie. It is one authority, he said, that he trusts to function to the fullest, thanks to Horan and the Authority Board of Directors and the Authority staff, without ever requiring personal intervention from his office.

The clinic offers family health services to 3,000-plus public housing residents who live within walking distance. The new facility has been seeing patients since December 28, 2009. To date, more than 300 individuals have been seen at the clinic. More than 200 of those are residents of public housing. The clinic is open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Funding for the clinic’s facilities was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Pennsylvania Department of Health provided a Community Primary Care Challenge grant to MHEDS for equipment and staffing at the clinic. Agnes Priscaro Chair of the Housing Authority and Executive Director of MHEDS applied for, and obtained the grant to staff the clinic.

The Housing Authority renovated space at their Marsha Hall Learning Center at a cost of about $25,000 to accommodate the clinic.

The clinic was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health because it determined that this area had many lower income families who would benefit from access to health care services in their neighborhood.

Currently, the clinic is staffed by a certified registered nurse practitioner, a licensed practical nurse, an office manager, and a medical assistant. A primary care physician is expected to be added to the staff in July, 2010.

MHEDS deals with those who are isolated from health care by their low incomes or geographic areas, and also those of other nationalities and cultural backgrounds whose first language is not English. MHEDS serves 39 ethnic groups, ranging from Somalians to Sudanese, Turkish, Bosnians, Russians, Ukrainians, Iraqis, Armenians, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Kurds and Asians – all immigrants or refugees to the U.S. and Erie.

MHEDS provides interpreters/caseworkers to guide people through the health care system, providing person-to-person health education, translation, interpretation, and referrals to other medical and social service agencies. The staff at the new clinic serves as “critical bridges,” Priscaro said, between under-served populations and the health care system. “I feel it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to get health care in their neighborhood,” Priscaro said.

Thanks to the range of services the health center offers, from pre-natal care, nutrition, screening exams, and specialist referrals, “We’re able to take care of our residents’ health needs, stressing preventive care,” Priscaro said. “Proper preventive health care will reduce the need for emergency room visits, which are uncomfortable for the patient and costly to the community,” she said.

For more information, contact John Horan at 452-2425 or Agnes Priscaro at 453-6229.