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By Marene Gustin
Legacy Community Health’s Montrose clinic opened a new pharmacy on Halloween. But there were no tricks, only treats. “Yes, we decorated it,” laughs Karen Gurwitch, Legacy’s vice president of pharmacy relations. “And we had a bowl of candy out for everyone. Not exactly healthy, but then we also had a bowl of oranges.”
That first day, about 100 customers visited the pharmacy, which takes up most of the ground floor of Legacy’s Montrose location at 1415 California Street—a 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2011. Previously, a Walgreens pharmacy operated inside the clinic before Legacy’s leadership made the decision to own and operate their own facility.
“People have been thrilled with the personal service,” Gurwitch says. “They can have a total coordinated-care experience.” This is the second Legacy pharmacy to open; the first was at their new Lyons Avenue clinic in the Fifth Ward. Going forward, Legacy may add pharmacies in some of its other 32 clinics, although none are on the drawing board yet.
Legacy Community Health grew out of The Montrose Clinic, founded in 1978 to provide healthcare services primarily for gay men. The clinic was instrumental in addressing the AIDS crisis in Houston throughout the 1980s and ’90s. In 2005, The Montrose Clinic merged with The Assistance Fund to become Legacy Community Health. Since then, Legacy has grown to serve 100,000 people each year, meeting the needs of the LGBTQ community and others who are uninsured or underinsured.
As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Legacy provides preventive and ongoing healthcare to patients regardless of their insurance situation or ability to pay. The organization offers sliding fees based on a patient’s finances, and accepts most private insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Legacy’s Montrose location offers dental and vision services along with primary care, preventive services, and mental-health counseling..
“FQHCs are playing a greater role today because of their affordability and the care they provide,” says Kevin Nix, Legacy’s senior director of communications. “We keep people out of the emergency rooms for non-emergency issues.” And, as Republicans try to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA), FQHCs—which are funded under a separate federal program—are becoming more important for basic healthcare.
Speaking of the ACA, it remains the law of the land and people have until December 15 (when the Open Enrollment Periods ends) to sign up to receive subsidized health insurance in 2018. There will be one new insurance provider and several new insurance plans in the Houston area next year, and some of the catastrophic or high-deductible plans are available at little or no cost. Even though the Trump administration reduced the signup period and cut funding for ACA advertising and assistance, Legacy still offers free help with the enrollment process. If you are comfortable choosing an insurance plan and enrolling on your own, go to Healthcare.gov—otherwise, trained Legacy “navigator” staff members are available at no cost to help people sign up.
As for the new pharmacy at the Montrose clinic, Gurwitch says her staff members are thoroughly trained in HIV/AIDS and transgender healthcare issues. They will also soon be able to provide home delivery for prescriptions and offer counseling, health coaching, immunizations, and smoking-cessation plans.
Although Legacy’s Montrose clinic and pharmacy specializes in treating HIV/AIDS patients and providing transgender healthcare for those who may face uncomfortable or even hostile situations at other medical facilities, all of Legacy’s Houston clinics are open and welcoming to everyone. “The pharmacy isn’t just for our clients,” Gurwitch says. “We want this to be the Montrose pharmacy. We want to be able to help the entire neighborhood.”
• 1415 California St.
• M–F 7:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
• 713.665.8800; fax 713.559.3268
• [email protected]
This article appears in the December 2017 edition of OutSmart Magazine.