Dr. Keister began by offering free health screenings at various schools in Amarillo, and the response at San Jacinto Elementary was notable, with over 500 people being seen in two hours. The overwhelming response in the San Jacinto community demonstrated members of the community were suffering a drastic lack of access to healthcare and were primarily using the only source of care available to them at the time: the emergency room. Thus, the vision of opening a free medical clinic in the San Jacinto neighborhood was born.
The information results in a partnership with Generation Next Church to host a free medical clinic once a week addressing urgent care needs. On September 8, 2014 - Heal the City Free Clinic opened, utilizing a 1,400 square-foot house with four small exam rooms. In the house, HTC saw an average of 80 patients on a Monday night clinic.
After its first full year in existence, Heal the City sees over 4,000 patients due to the overwhelming response from the community members in need and the generous support of numerous medical partners, donors, and volunteers. Heal the City is essentially gifted the old Mid-Town YMCA building at 609 S. Carolina, contributing approximately $55,000 for the 20,000 square-foot building.
Heal the City continues to grow, adding additional clinic times, including hours for lab review appointments on Thursdays and a Women’s Night once a month, which provides free cervical and breast cancer screenings. Heal the City treats over 5,400 patients in 2016, three women are diagnosed with breast cancer and received treatment after being seen at Women’s Night, and over 1,500 immunizations are given to children.
After it became apparent that some patients did not fit into any existing resources, in 2017 Heal the City began to plan a chronic care program to address this select group of patients’ medical needs. The chronic care program, affectionately known as Shalom, began October 2017. By year's end, Heal the City had treated 7,000 patients.
We celebrated the completion of the new medical clinic in July. Thirteen exam rooms, with actual doors, allowed for additional volunteer providers to serve the uninsured. Volunteer optometrist began providing on-site optical exams for Shalom patients. The Hope Garden became a reality, providing 10 raised garden beds used for patient education. Our immunization clinic administered over 600 vaccinations to area school aged children. HTC provided wellness classes to patients, which included yoga, walking group, and stress management. We successfully collaborated with Bivins Foundation and High Plains Christian Ministry to provide 5-7 weekly meals for our senior Shalom patients struggling with food insecurity. .
2019 has been a year of growth in many areas of Heal the City. HTC hired two full time family nurse practitioners and was able to hire several new staff members that play vital roles at Heal the City. We opened the Nest, Phase II, which doubled Heal the City’s useable space providing more room for wellness classes and other activities. Our kids’ area also opened which provides childcare for patients during their appointments and wellness classes. We are on track to have around 500 patients enrolled in our Shalom program and will fill around 18,000 prescriptions by the end of 2019. Finally, construction on Heal the City’s Wellness Center started and will be completed sometime in early 2020.
Even with all the uncertainty that 2020 has cast upon the Amarillo community, Heal the City is proud to have stayed united and strong throughout the pandemic. We are extremely blessed to have weathered the storm that the pandemic brought while simultaneously providing stability for our patients’ health. We also used this time to implement new systems into our clinic, most notably with our acute care approach. The resiliency of the HTC community would not be possible without the amazing people that comprise it. There is nothing that can prevent us from serving the medical needs of the uninsured while exemplifying Christ’s love and hope with patients and volunteers alike.