Howard Brown officials say agency is ready to grow

Tue. April 17, 2012 9:09 AM by News Staff

jamal edwards and kristin keglovitz-baker

photo credit // gary barlow

Edwards: "Howard Brown is stronger financially today than it has been in years"

Chicago, IL - Officials at Howard Brown Health Center said April 16 that the LGBT health agency has restored its financial stability, implemented sweeping technological and administrative changes and is poised to grow into a healthcare center that can serve clients "from the time they're born until the time they die."

"We've all been working very hard to recharge Howard Brown Health Center," said HBHC President and CEO Jamal Edwards. "Howard Brown is stronger financially today than it has been in years."

At a press conference at its Sheridan Road headquarters in Buena Park, Edwards and other HBHC officials said the agency has returned to a positive balance sheet, with a year-to-date surplus of $807,000 so far in fiscal year 2012. That comes almost two years after HBHC was rocked by disclosures that former top officials had diverted almost $3 million in federal HIV grants to pay general operating expenses. The agency recently agreed to repay $715,000 of those funds to the federal government and says it is negotiating to repay another $1.7 million of those funds owed to Northwestern University.

Edwards took over as head of HBHC in the wake of that scandal, which involved grants earmarked for the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study.

Lowell Raven, HBHC senior director of finance and accounting, touted steps the center's financial team has taken to both stabilize HBHC's balance sheet and make its finances more transparent, including posting monthly statements online and ensuring that board members and program directors are kept fully aware of the agency's finances.

"We've significantly improved our financial bottom line," Raven said. "Our net asset position has been restored to a positive financial asset position."

In addition to stabilizing its finances, HBHC has also made technological and administrative changes to better integrate the services it provides to clients. Those entail a myriad of programs, including general medical, psychiatric and mental health, HIV and geriatric care, as well as specialized services for women and transgenders. Officials said they'll add pediatric care later this year, including obstetrics, and eventually aim to include dental services.

All of those services, HBHC leaders said, are now utilizing electronic record-keeping that's fully integrated and readily accessible using devices such as tablet computers.

"All of our clinical sites are connected now," said Will Raj, vice president of administration. "And we're working to allow our patients to connect online and access a portion of their medical records and communicate with their doctors."

The drive to revamp the agency is centered on improving the client experience and adapting to changing expectations of what that experience should be, said HBHC Director of Clinical Operations Kristin Keglovitz-Baker.

"Health care should be coming from a place of what the patient needs and what the community needs," she said.

The officials stressed that a big part of HBHC's restructuring of its programs has been based on studying the best practices of other healthcare providers around the U.S., as well as programs that have worked well here, including HBHC's own Broadway Youth Center, a collaborative effort HBHC launched in conjunction with other service providers in Chicago.

"The lessons we are learning from the Broadway Youth Center, we want to use," said Michael McFadden, HBHC director of social services and community health services. "We're taking the best components of that program and applying them to other populations."

Edwards acknowledged that HBHC is considering moving BYC, though he said he couldn't go into detail yet. Calling BYC a "crown jewel," he noted that BYC serves youths from all over Chicago, as well as some from outside Illinois.

"We're looking at ways to make sure they get what they need," he said. "We're going to do what's best for the youth."

Edwards also said the agency is excited about the expansion and move of its Triad Health Practice later this year from its current offices in the Illinois Masonic Medical Building at Halsted and Wellington to the larger standalone offices at Halsted and Melrose being vacated by Northwestern Physicians Group.

"(Triad) faced the danger of closing two years ago," Edwards noted.

At the new location, HBHC aims for Triad to expand its services to more members of the surrounding community and offer new services, including dental care, pediatric care and behavioral health counseling.

"Our ability to serve others and expand our reach means working really hard with other members of the community," Edwards said. "We're really proud of the work we've done together."

Written by Gary Barlow

Gary Barlow joins as an editorial contributor and writer. Barlow is the former editor of Chicago Free Press and Gay Chicago and has been covering Chicago's LGBT community since the late 1990s. He was also a reporter and assistant news editor for the Dallas Voice and has written for In These Times.

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