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Building Community

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doctor checking on patientMichael R. Zent Healthcare Center now provides behavioral health services with primary medical care for patients in Maryvale.

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Kehila. This Hebrew word represents one of the core values of Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) – building community. And that is exactly what JFCS is doing in Maryvale, a community with the highest concentration of Medicaid recipients in Maricopa County and a critical shortage of primary care physicians.

JFCS is celebrating the opening of a new integrated medical and behavioral health center in the underserved Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix. Over its 17 years of operation, the former clinic in Maryvale had reached a crisis due to overcrowding and inadequate space. The new Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center, named in honor of the highly regarded JFCS CEO who passed away earlier this year, will be able to serve a growing number of children and families with complex physical, mental health and substance abuse issues. Seventy percent of these patients also have at least one ongoing medical condition.

“We are pleased to see the vision that we’ve been working on for several years come to life,” said Mary Jo Whitfield, Interim Deputy CEO of Behavioral Health at JFCS. “Now we have the ability to meet the total healthcare needs for all patients who come to our Maryvale clinic – not just behavioral health patients.”

maryjo quote

The new Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center expands services to an additional 2,000 clients per year,increasing the number of patients served from 6,500 to 8,500 annually. At least 4,000 of these clients are children. The new center was designed specifically to provide both medical and behavioral health services in an environment where clinical and support staff work together, sharing treatment information electronically to determine the best course of action for each person’s health.

medical graphic“True to the man himself, the center is cutting-edge and it services a community in need,” said Dr. Mario Lippy, co-director of the clinic. “Dr. Zent was very involved with the Latino community – he spoke Spanish and grew up in Tempe – and many of our patients are Hispanic. He wanted to provide whole healthcare to a population that has complex behavioral health and medical issues in order to improve their lives.”

Services at the Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center emphasize prevention and early intervention to stop the development of chronic illness and acute conditions that can lead to unnecessary hospitalization and emergency room care.

Additionally, a staff clinician is co-located in the Arizona Department of Child Safety office that serves Maryvale, which has the state’s highest rate of children removed from the home due to serious abuse patient roomand neglect. As a result, the Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center serves a large number of Maryvale children in foster care who have severe trauma symptoms.

Approximately two-thirds of the foster-care youth referred to the Maricopa County behavioral health system are assessed and treated at JFCS, many of them at the Maryvale clinic. There are currently nearly 19,000 children in Arizona’s foster-care system.

lippy quote“Our clinic provides trauma-informed care – our staff understands how to treat an individual to make them whole again,” Dr. Lippy said. “We get to do some of the most rewarding work, but it’s not for everyone. It’s a high-volume, high-stress environment, but when you’re making a difference in the lives of children, it’s worth it.”

JFCS’ goal is to use this clinic as a model and replicate the integrated care approach at its three other healthcare clinics in Maricopa County. “This clinic represents an opportunity to address social determinants that hinder access to quality healthcare, ranging from socioeconomic status to language barriers or lack of transportation, among other factors,” Whitfield said. “Through health literacy and our outreach efforts, we believe that patients in our clinic will achieve an improved quality of life over time.”