Endasia Alli, 20, is having her first baby soon. Now in her third trimester, she’s had time to prepare for her little boy, which would have been difficult without the help of her nurse, Heather Champagne, and the rest of the Marquette Neighborhood Health Center staff.
“They provided me with things I didn’t know, like how to get resources, take care of the baby – that was really comforting,” Alli said.
A friend referred the expectant mother to MNHC early in her pregnancy. “At first I thought I’d want to go to a big hospital, but this is so much better,” she said. “It’s small and so family oriented, I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else.”
Since Alli first started seeing Champagne, the nurse-managed center moved from 1834 W. Wisconsin Ave. on Marquette University’s campus to the Hillside Family Resource Center at 1452 N. 7th St., about two miles away.
Alli said she never considered going elsewhere. The center’s new location is closer to her home. “It wasn’t really a transition for me,” Alli said. “I like this building a lot better – it’s cleaner, smaller and looks cuter.”
Dalvery Blackwell, a lactation consultant, said that the neighborhood immediately welcomed the center.
“There’s a great need here (for our services),” Blackwell said. “We’re sandwiched inside a community with high levels of infant mortality and many female-headed households.”
The Hillside Family Resource Center provides services that residents of the surrounding community need most, such as education, childcare and healthcare, said Ann Wilson, the resource center’s director.
MNHC, which is open five days a week, provides much-needed services for adult women that cover “the gamut of women’s issues,” Wilson said.
In addition to MNHC, Hillside houses a daycare center, Boys and Girls Club, office rental space, an MATC learning lab for computer and GED classes, a resident council office and the Progressive Milwaukee Health Center, which provides primary care for men, women and children of all ages.
The Marquette health center joined a community that focuses on fostering a neighborhood feel among residents, Wilson said.
At the Wisconsin Avenue location, MNHC provided primary care services for men and women of all ages. At Hillside, the center has narrowed its focus to women’s health care. It is one of three nurse-managed care facilities staffed by Marquette College of Nursing faculty, but the only one focused on women’s health.
Nurse Practitioner Kathlyn Albert, who is also a nurse midwife, said the women’s focus arose from need in the Milwaukee community. In addition, MNHC received a five-year $1.5 million grant awarded in 2011 by the Health Resources and Services Administration that focuses on improving maternal and infant outcomes.
About 90 percent of MNHC’s patients are covered by Medicaid. Moving forward, the center would like to be able to support itself with patient revenues, since the HRSA grant runs out in two years, said Kelly Campbell, director of MNHC.
Campbell stressed the center is willing to serve “any woman who walks through that door,” from Hillside, another neighborhood or Marquette. This aligns with the center’s mission to provide quality primary care, reduce health disparities in urban areas and expose nursing students to community-based health care opportunities they might not consider otherwise.
The health center offers primary care such as physicals, health screenings and referrals as well as nurse-midwifery services including prenatal care, breastfeeding support sessions and postpartum care for mothers. It also hosts Centering Pregnancy sessions –– a group-focused prenatal care model that allows expecting mothers to meet once a week with nurse supervision to help track one another’s progress and provide a safe space to ask questions, voice concerns and discuss progress.
Like Endasia, many patients followed MNHC to its new location, which is rare for a small health center, according to Campbell.
Nevertheless, “just like any other business, it’s hard to move,” Campbell said. “You’re going to lose some patients just like a restaurant would lose customers.”
Albert said staff members struggled to get word out to their new community that the health center is there, and to their former community that it’s still in service. She said the center plans to hand out fliers, attend neighborhood residents’ meetings and hold community events this fall.
“Just this last week they went to every door down here,” said Wilson. “They knocked on doors and talked to about 50 to 60 people, and I thought that was excellent.”
Wilson said she believes the health center can do a lot for the community, “if for nothing else but being an entity women can come to when they’re stressed out.”