Healthcare in the Shadows

Larry Combest Community Health & Wellness Center in Lubbock, TX

Posted by on Monday, May 25, 2015 in News.

With their mission to reduce or eliminate health disparities among high risk populations, the Texas Tech School of Nursing faculty have created a mosaic of healthcare related services offered to thousands of patients and families in this Western High Plains region.  The Larry Combest Center opened in 2009 with major support from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (spearheaded by the School of Nursing) and from the federal government with the awarding of Federally Qualified Health Center Look Alike status followed by full recognition as a Federally Qualified Health Center shortly thereafter.  This dedicated team offers programs for expectant mothers (access to baby supplies and equipment), diabetes education, senior house calls, visiting nurses to families with babies and young children, primary care, behavioral health, prenatal care, prescription assistance, transportation to the healthcenter, enrollment assistance for Medicaid and CHIP programs, and assistance with enrollment in programs.

New Sites

In the past year the Combest Center has added a second site where primary care and behavioral care are integrated.  This expansion has enriched both programs and insured that people with mental health challenges are afforded access to top notch primary care as well.  The behavioral health providers and the primary care providers work side by side in the same clinic space and are able to consult with each other in real time in order to effectively coordinate care.

Sunrise Canyon location where behavioral health and primary care are integrated

A third site will be opening in July in Abileen, Texas, a 2 hour drive from Lubbock.  This will be a new access site, supported by a grant from the Bureau of Primary Care.  Health disparities and unmet needs for care were so great in this region that the Texas Tech School of Nursing felt a moral obligation to expand their service area.

Making a Difference Matters
When I talked to Linda McMurry, executive director for the Combest Center, and to Chris Esperat, associate dean for clinical services and community engagement at the School of Nursing, they told me that these sites and services “break even” but are not revenue streams for the school of nursing.  Yes, nursing and other health professions students use the sites for clinical training but the overwhelming reason that the school and the health sciences center are so invested in these community sites is the desire to make a difference for the disadvantaged populations that they serve.  Many of these patients are uninsured and pay cash using a sliding scale based on income and family size.  Many take advantage of pharmacy assistance programs to obtain free medications. Without such assistance, they might see a nurse practitioner for care but would not be able to follow through with needed medication due to inability to pay for costly drugs.

Nurse Led Care

Mosaic at Combest Center entrance depicting its relationship with the community

There are no physicians at the Combest Center sites.  All of these needed services are delivered by advanced practice nurses, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, nursing and medical assistants, other health professionals, support staff at the front desk and billing office, and community advisors and volunteers.  The Combest Center, across all of its sites, lifts up the community it serves and is in turn uplifted by that same community just as the mosaic on the front wall so colorfully reflects.




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