October 27, 2023
As over 200 people celebrated with food, games, and song, Central Health’s Hornsby Bend Health and Wellness Center officially opened on Saturday, October 21. Along with tasty tacos, Zumba moves, and a Teddy Bear Clinic staffed by CommUnityCare’s Hornsby Bend providers, the event signaled new and better healthcare access for the more than 10,000 residents in and around the Eastern Travis County community near the Colorado River.
Along with Del Valle to the south and Colony Park to the north, Hornsby Bend is a focus of Central Health’s efforts to bring sorely needed services to the county’s healthcare deserts. The hospital district, guided by its Healthcare Equity Plan, is growing and expanding to close persistent gaps in access and repair Travis County’s healthcare safety net.
The Hornsby Bend Health and Wellness Center is a modern, 8,000-square-foot facility with up to nine exam rooms , where Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare will provide holistic primary medical and behavioral health care without regard to ability to pay – all are welcome Central Health will also offer education and wellness programs at Hornsby Bend, along with indoor and outdoor spaces including an accessible children’s playscape where the community can gather. Walls throughout the building feature art by Del Valle Independent School District students.
“I hope you are as inspired by their art as I am by them,” said Central Health’s Stephanie McDonald, the hospital district’s executive sponsor for the Hornsby Bend effort, or in her words, “the vice-president of getting it built.”
Travis County residents with low income are heavily concentrated in neighborhoods both along and east of Interstate 35. Much of Eastern Travis County, including Hornsby Bend – one of the oldest settlements in the county – has lacked access to health and wellness services. About 2,500 people living in and near Hornsby Bend lack health insurance according to census data. The area has become a leading destination for households with low and moderate incomes that can’t cover escalating housing costs in Austin.
Central Health has worked for years to create and improve healthcare access in these formerly semi-rural communities. The Hornsby Bend Health and Wellness Center sits across from Dailey Middle School in the Austin’s Colony neighborhood, a spot that’s more than 10 miles from the next-nearest places to receive medical care, Central Health’s Southeast Health and Wellness Center and CommUnityCare’s Manor clinic.
Central Health bought the Hornsby Bend site from the Dailey family in 2019. At the event, President & CEO Mike Geeslin recounted his meeting with Mrs. Dailey: “When I was discussing the purchase of this property with her, she was adamant that it be used for the community’s benefit and that there was something here for everyone. She wanted to leave something meaningful here. So, this building is a covenant in honor of those who came before us, in honor of those who walk with us, in honor of those who are patient, and of those in leadership positions who made what were sometimes very difficult decisions to make this possible.”
Said CommUnityCare CEO Jaeson Fournier, “Our success is intertwined with the community’s success. Our partnership with Central Health aims to achieve greater health equity for all and strengthen the health and well-being of the communities we serve. We’re committed to providing diverse, culturally competent, and sensitive services that meet people where they are.”
While noting that CommUnityCare has seen thousands of patients over the last three years at Central Health’s temporary clinic in Hornsby Bend off FM 969, “there is still unmet need within the community. We look forward to partnering with you to increase access to care and reduce health disparities.”
Shannon Jones of Central Health’s Board of Managers spoke to the ongoing relationship between the hospital district and the community.
“We have successfully brought this facility to the community through the efforts of the board, citizens, and our elected officials. But now that the facility is here, the question is, will the community make use of it? It’s up to all of us to inform people about the facility’s availability and what it offers. We can’t just say we’ve done this and walk away. In many communities across the country, health facilities remain underutilized. We must ensure that this doesn’t happen here.”
State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, formerly the Travis County judge, highlighted how the county compares to others in the state: “Nearly half of Texas counties lack an obstetrician-gynecologist, and 35 counties in the state don’t have a single physician. We’re fortunate to have local advocates and elected officials who are willing to address these challenges and step up when the state won’t. When I was at Travis County Commissioners Court, we heard from advocates about the need for more services in eastern Travis County. While we were doing better than many other counties, we still faced disparities in access, especially in eastern Travis County. I’m delighted to see this come to fruition and proud of Central Health for fulfilling the promises made.”