Community Connections Wants Part Time Primary Health Care Facility
And Some Surprising Facts About Community Connections
by Larry Janezich
Tuesday night, ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee sent Community Connection’s (CC) request for support for a part time primary health care office in its operation to the full ANC for a final decision. It appeared that the Committee was poised to give a qualified “no objection” to the plan, contingent upon CC’s continuing commitment to resolve some of the social and behavioral issues associated with some of their clients who linger near Eastern Market Metro Plaza before and after visiting the facility at 801 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.
CC representatives appeared before the committee Tuesday night to support their plan for the primary health care office to serve an estimated 5 – 9 of their current clients per day. A Department of Health “Certificate of Need” is necessary, and CC is seeking ANC6B’s endorsement of the document.
Several members of the Planning and Zoning Committee said they were conflicted. While recognizing the needs of CC’s clients for primary health care, they said they were concerned about a possible increase in client traffic that would contribute to the problems which have recently plagued the 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., intersection. To those concerns the CC representatives say that the facility is at capacity now, that their client’s limited financial resources for transportation will discourage frequent use, and that the additional health service is not a lucrative one which would encourage expansion.
That intersection is home to a traffic hub with four nearby carryout food outlets, a mobile hotdog stand, a nearby 7-11, a singles-selling liquor store, and considerable public greenspace. The crowd that occupies the setting is comprised of those waiting for public transportation, school students traversing the area, a population of homeless persons who sleep in doorways of businesses (including the Post Office), and a number of CC clients – probably fewer than 15. Moving through the crowd is a constant stream of patrons of businesses and food and drink venues on Barracks Row. This adds up, in the words of resident member and former Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, to “an unhealthy environment” that adversely affects both the community and the CC clients. The worst behaviors include intoxication to the point of unconsciousness, drug use, public urination, at least one public sex act, panhandling – and drug dealing.
CC representatives say they are very aware of the issues which some of their clients bring to the neighborhood and are trying to resolve those issues and to deepen their engagement to the community. To that end, CC is working with group of 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue stakeholders and CM Charles Allen as well as ANC6B. (See here: http://bit.ly/1jQB0sR)
Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg, Chair of ANC6B, in whose single member district CC resides, came down firmly in support of the Certificate of Need. She termed the request for an endorsement “benign” while acknowledging the problems in the neighborhood. Oldenberg said, “If we turn this down, I don’t think we’ve advanced dealing with the problems….and then what?” And apparently in response to one resident who questioned whether CC should be in the community, she added “We don’t have the capacity to kick Community Connections out of their own building.”
In the end, the Committee voted to forward the question to the full ANC which meets next on Tuesday, November 10th, at Hill Center. In the meantime, Oldenberg said she would draft a letter for the Commission to consider. It appeared likely that the letter would say that the ANC has no objection to the Certificate of Need, but will note the number of issues associated with Community Connections that are of concern to the community as well as the expectations of the community with respect to CC’s continued participation in resolving these issues.
CC has – some believe – deliberately kept a low profile in the community which has contributed to a wide misunderstanding in the community about what they do. CC is a mental health services provider funded in part by the city and one of the default providers of services following the deinstitutionalization of mental health care under the Reagan administration. Some of the points about Community Connections which were revealed or asserted by representatives last night include:
Community Connections is not a methadone clinic
They have upwards of 400 employees, the majority of which interact with clients off site in the clients’ homes, in doctors’ offices, or at Social Security offices: 60% of CC’s work takes place off site, 40% on site
More than 100 employees work at the 801 Pennsylvania Avenue location, including medical personnel, administrators, accountants, and property managers
Their clients come from across the city and are referred by the DC Department of Behavioral Health (at 64 New York Avenue, NE) which gives clients a choice of which mental health care provider they want to go to
Both Yes! and Baskin-Robbins are tenants of CC and occupy parts of the CC Building – which is owned by CC