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Casa de Salud Opens for Culturally Diverse Workforce
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), April 18, 2010 - One year after two clinics serving Hispanic immigrants in the St. Louis region closed their doors, Casa de Salud, a new health and wellness center, celebrates its grand opening on April 16 with speeches, food and a blessing of its building.
In remarks, Bob Fox, who chairs Casa de Salud's board of directors, said "If we can offer new immigrants a pathway to good health, we'll help our entire community be stronger and more vibrant."
"A culturally diverse and healthy workforce is critical if we are to attract new businesses to the St. Louis region. We see Casa de Salud, which means 'house of health,' as a bridge to good health and regional prosperity."
Fox, who also is founder and chief executive officer for NewSpace Inc. and a member of Saint Louis University's board of trustees, spearheaded the drive for Casa last year, after La Clinica and Accion Social Comunitaria closed. He asked Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., if SLU would sponsor a new wellness service for the Latino community, and Biondi embraced the opportunity to take a leadership role.
"When I first talked with Bob Fox about the need for this kind of facility, I immediately knew this was something that Saint Louis University needed to be part of. This initiative fits with our social justice mission of reaching out to help a seldom or never-served portion of our community," Biondi said.
"We care about our neighbors and our community, and we especially care about those in need. Casa de Salud fits into everything that SLU is about and provides students, faculty and staff with volunteer opportunities."
Saint Louis University converted a building at the corner of Compton and Chouteau avenues into a health care center, which it rents to Casa de Salud for $1 a year.
Natural light floods the 3,000-square-foot facility, and brightly painted walls and artistic murals make Casa de Salud a warm and welcoming space. With a large meeting area, two large medical exam rooms, a laboratory, consultation rooms and office space, the facility has room to grow.
A board and advisory board of members who understand the Hispanic community in St. Louis and who have a background in health care make the decisions that shape Casa de Salud's operations.
Casa is staffed by five paid employees, dozens of undergraduate and graduate volunteers from Saint Louis University and Washington University, as well as more than 100 volunteer physicians, nurses and community members.
"It's a collaboration by members of the whole community," Fox said.
The physicians offer what Fox calls "basic episodic care" -- such as treating a sore throat or other minor injury or illness. The goal is not only to solve the immediate problem but also to help the patient find a medical home in one of myriad health care services already available in the community. Those treated at Casa de Salud are referred to other existing health care institutions that are designed to provide ongoing medical care.
"We don't want to be a competitor to those services. We want to be a feeder or gateway into the health care system," Fox said.
Casa de Salud assigns each patient a "navigator," who teaches new immigrants how to use the complicated health care system. Navigators help fill out forms, provide translation services and may even accompany the patient to the first appointment at a new facility, such as a federally qualified health center.
"This approach is different from what had been offered previously, and makes Casa de Salud a critical and permanent link in the overall health care system of our region," Fox said. "Our goal is to knock down the barriers that prevent new immigrants from accessing health care."
Metro Begins Transit Restoration Following Voter Mandate from Prop A
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ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), April 18, 2010 - With a mandate from the 63 percent of voters in St. Louis County who approved Proposition A on April 6, Metro is taking steps to restore transit services that were reduced in 2009 and is reviewing routes to determine which ones should be reconfigured or extended.
Robert J. Baer, Metro President and Chief Executive Officer, said one of the first steps toward rebuilding the public-transit system was to complete the screening, hiring and training of the best candidates for new jobs as operators, mechanics and others needed to restore and expand service. He said Metro would be hiring about 40 employees each quarter for the remainder of the year for a total of about 120 by the end of 2010.
Metro also immediately began removing the "Temporarily Restored " signs at bus stops where service would have been eliminated if Proposition A had failed. After services were cut last year, a one-time emergency appropriation from the Missouri Legislature enabled Metro to restore service temporarily to some routes. Those funds will be exhausted later this summer.
Baer said Metro will announce the schedule for restoration and reconfiguration of service at the April 16 Board Meeting.
Voters in nearly all parts of the County voted to approve Proposition A, which set a sales tax of one-half of 1 percent to fund public transit for the region. Prop A's passage in the County also triggered a one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax in the City of St. Louis that voters there approved in 1997. Metro estimates the revenue from the sales tax in the County should be about $74 million with about $8 million from the City. Those new revenues should begin arriving at Metro in the fall of this year.
"Metro wants to extend its sincere gratitude to the voters of St. Louis County for their vote of confidence in their transit agency and their trust in our vision for the future of public transit in the St. Louis region, " Baer said. "The overwhelming victory on April 6 demonstrates that the voters understood the important role public transit plays in getting people to jobs, medical care and important destinations, and the role transit plays in helping drive economic development and new jobs for the region.
"Proposition A means the region has preserved hundreds of jobs at Metro, and more importantly, has prevented thousands of people from losing transit access to their workplaces " Baer added. "Metro Call-A-Ride will be able to continue serving the elderly and disabled community, and students still have access to colleges, universities, and technical schools. "
Baer also said the new revenue will provide funds needed for the required local match to apply for federal funds. He said Metro has been forced to leave millions of federal dollars on the table because the Agency did not have local revenue to attract federal dollars for our region. Federal funds and state funds will be needed to create new Bus Rapid Transit and MetroLink lines.
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