With a median household income one-third lower than Columbus as a whole and nearly half of the residents lacking a high school diploma, the Franklinton neighborhood is poorer and less educated than the city overall. This has created unique health care challenges for the neighborhood.
One organization confronting the issue is Lower Lights Christian Health Center, a faith-based nonprofit community health center.
Awareness is half the battle in providing quality care to the neighborhood, says Chief Strategy Officer Ann Schiele.
“There are many people in Franklinton still not accessing health care and part of our responsibility is to get the word out that we can care for them regardless of their income,” Schiele says. “It’s getting them to come to us so that we can work with them.”
About half the organization’s patients are on Medicaid. All services – medical, vision, dental, counseling and nutrition care – are available regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.
But that doesn’t mean anyone’s sacrificing quality.
“I would match it with the quality of care of any private practice,” she says. “We have patients that are fully insured that choose to use our resources.”
Among those people is Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade, a neighborhood advocacy group.
“I have regular insurance,” he says, adding, “I go there, I have great care.”
Across seven locations in central Ohio, the organization serves 14,000 patients a year.
About 23 percent of patients are in Franklinton and another 13 percent are from Hilltop, another high-need neighborhood west of Franklinton.
The need is only growing.
Schiele expects Lower Lights could soon serve 20,000 patients in a year.
“We continue to grow very rapidly in terms of the number of patients we’re seeing,” she says. “We will build capacity to serve all patients, whether in Franklinton or another area. There should not be one individual that does not have health care available to them.”
Adding to the neighborhood’s need is the opioid addiction crisis that’s making headlines nationally.
“Many, many of our patients have substance abuse problems,” Schiele says. “Many of them have had very difficult lives for one reason or another. Certainly that lifestyle has contributed to dependency.”
Recognizing the issue, Lower Lights has introduced a program in which 40 patients are being seen.
The participants, which must already be patients of Lower Lights, receive the treatment drug Suboxone as part of a holistic approach that includes emotional treatment.
By year’s end, Lower Lights wants to serve 100 people.
“It is amazing, the individuals in that program, and the results we’ve had,” Schiele says.
In October, in another new development, the organization plans to open a nonprofit grocery on West Broad Street.
Jubilee Market and Cafe, the neighborhood’s first full-service grocery, will provide Franklinton families healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, breads and ready-made meals.
The project aligns with Lower Lights’ mission, as there will be an emphasis on nutrition education.
Payment, as with other Lower Lights services, will be based on income.
“It’s discreet and it’s dignified.” says Smith, of the Board of Trade. “It’s very medicinal in its concept, that’s what’s cool about it.”
He expects wealthier consumers will shop alongside the neighborhood’s poorer residents.
“Literally for the last 12 years, that’s the battle cry: we need a grocery store,” he said.